Transcript: Pope Francis' address to Congress

Below is Pope Francis' address to Congress:


Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, honorable members of the Congress, dear friends, I am most grateful for the invitation to address this joint session of Congress in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and to all which we share a common responsibility. Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility.  Your one responsible as members of congress is to enable this country by your legislative activity to grow as a nation.

You are the face of it's people.  They are represented. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common law.  For this is the chief aim of all politics.

A political society endures when it seeks a rationale to satisfy common needs by stimulating the role of all its members especially those in situations of great vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always best if they care of the people.

So this you have been invited, called, a commitment by those who elect you.  Yours is a walk which makes me reflect in two ways in the figure of Moses.

The one, the patriarch and (inaudible) of the people of Israel, symbolizes the need of people to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation.  On the other, the figure of Moses lifts us directly to God and thus, with the threshold of dignity of the human being.

Moses, provides us with a God's synthesis of a walk.  We are asked to protect by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human life.

Today, I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States.  Here together with the representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest days work, to bring home the daily bread to save money, and one step at a time to build a better life for their families.

These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society.

They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create initiations to have a helping hand to those who are in need.  I would like to end the dialogue with the many elderly persons who store a house of wisdom forged by experience and who seek in many ways especially -- to bore on their work, share their stories and their insights.  I know that many of them are retired, but still active.  They keep working to build up this land.

I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations -- who are not led astray by facile proposals, face difficult decisions, often, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many others.  I wish to dialogue with all of you and I would like to do so through the storytelling of your people.  My visit takes place at the time when men and women of good will are marking their [anniversaries] of several great Americans.  The complexity of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women for all there are many differences and imitations are enabled by hard work and self-sacrifice, some of the cost of their lives, to build a better future.

They shared fundamental values which endure forever in the spirit of the American people, a people with a great spirit, which can lead to many crisis, conflicts while always finding their resources to move forward and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing an imperfect reality.  And from the memory, we are inspired, even amidst the conflict and in the here and now of each day, to draw a plan our deepest who draw uncertainty.

I would like to mention four of these Americans:  Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Doris Day and Thomas Madison.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty who labored tirelessly that this nation under God might have a new birth of freedom.  Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of and deeply worried by the disturbing and political situation of the world today.  Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities committed even in the name of God and of religion.

We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.  This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.  A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against -- the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.  The contemporary world with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization, which would divide it into these two camps.

We know that in the attempt to defeat of enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within.  To imitate the hatred and violence of (inaudible) and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you as people reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.

We are asked to summon the courage and intelligence to resolve today's many geopolitical and economic crises.  Even in the developed world, the effect of unjust structures and actions are all (inaudible).

Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples.  We must move forward together as one in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generosity with the common law.

The challenges facing us today call for our a renewal of that speed of cooperation which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States.  The complexity, the gravity, and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pull our resources and talents as a result to support one another with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society.  It is important that today as in the past the voice of faith continues to be heard for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society.  Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery born of great injustices which can overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Politics is instead an expression of our compelling need to live as one.  In order to build as one, the greatest common good that of a community that sacrifices particular interests in order to share in justice and peace, it's good, it's interests, it's social life. I don't know and underestimate the difficult that this involves but I encourage you in this effort.

Here, I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago, as part of the campaign to fulfill his dream of full civil and political rights for African-Americans.

That dream continues to inspire us all and I am happy that America continues to be for many, a land of dreams  ... dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment; dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of the people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom.  We, the people of this continent are now fearful of foreigners because most of us ... because most of us were once foreigners.

I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descendants from immigrants.

Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected.  For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation.  Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but we know that it's very difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.

Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appears to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.

We must resolve now to live as nobly as -- and as justly as possible as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our neighbors and everything around us.  Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity in a constant effort to do our best.

I'm confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War.  This present us with great challenges and many hard decisions.  On this continent too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunity.  If it's not what we want for our own children  must not be taken aback by the numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.  To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.  We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays, to discard whatever proves troublesome.  Let us remember the golden rule, do unto others as you ... do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This rule points us in a clear direction.  Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.  Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.  Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.  In a word, if we want security, let us give security.  If we want life, let us give life.  If we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.

The golden rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.

I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred.  Every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.  Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty.

Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation. In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention ... Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement.  Her social activism, her passion for justice, and for the cause for the oppressed was inspired by the gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints, how she marched progress has amazed in this area and so many parts of the world.

How much has been done in this first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty.  I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done and in times of crisis and economic hardships, through plenty of global solidarity must not be lost.  In this time, I would encourage to keep in name, all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to given hope the fight against poverty and hunger must we fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in this world.

I know that many Americans today as in the past are working to deal with this problem.  It goes without saying that parts of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology, and the harnessing of in the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive, and sustainable.

Business is a noble vocation directed to producing wealth and improving the world.  It can be a fruitful source of prosperity from the area in which it operates, especially if it assists the creation of jobs as an essential job of its purpose to the common good.

This common good also includes the Earth.  A central theme of the encyclical which I recently (inaudible) with all people about our common home.  We need a conversation which includes everyone since the environmental challenge we are undergoing and its human roots concern and effect us all.

In all that to see, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference, I'm sure.

And I have no doubt that the United States, and this Congress, have an important role to play.  Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature.

We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.  In this regard, I am confident that America's outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the great war, which Pope Benedict XV termed a pointless slaughter, another notable American was born, the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton.  He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people.  In his autobiography, Merton wrote, ``I came into the world, free by nature, in the image of God.  I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born.  That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers.''

Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the church.  He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions. From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past.  It is my duty to bear graciousness and help all men and women in any way possible, to do the same.

When countries which have been at all -- resume the path of the dialogue, a dialogue which have been interrupted to the most legitimate of reasons, new opportunities open up for all.

Deeds that require and require us, courage and daring, which is not the same as responsibility.  A good political leader is one who, with the interest of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spread of openness and pragmatism.  A good political leader is always open to initiate progress rather than possessing space.

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being determined to minimize in the long term to end the many hard conflict to help our world.

Here, we have to ask ourselves, why are deadly weapons meaningful to those plan to inflict total suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer as we all know is simply for money.

Money, that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood in the face of the shameful and culpable silence.  It is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms drive.

Three sons and one daughter of this land for individuals of all dreams.  Lincoln, Liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty and plurality and honest questions; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.  Four representatives of American peoples.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the world meeting of families.  It is my wish that to hope and visit, and see that the family, should be a reoccurring thing.  How essential the family has been to the building of this country.

And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement, yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.  I can only reiterate the importance and above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young.  For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair.  Their problems are our problems.

We cannot avoid them.  We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions.  At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future.  Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to dream of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks, I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people.  It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America.