Pope Francis just wrapped up his address to Congress and instead of excoriating the members over gridlock, economic inequality, and inaction on climate change, he spoke of opportunity and hope. (Text of the speech should be available soon on the Vatican website.
The pope, speaking gently and plainly, called on politicians to work together to solve some of the most difficult domestic and global problems, including poverty, violence, and environmental degradation (he never used "climate change" in his speech). A civil society thrives when it works collectively to meet common needs, he said especially the needs of the most vulnerable. And that's what Americans call on their elected leaders to do, he said.
“The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation that has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States," the pope said.
The pope spent a significant portion of his speech addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, which he described as being "of a magnitude not seen since the second world war," as well as immigration. In recent centuries, millions of people came to the United States with dreams of building a future, he said. And as people continue to immigrate to the United States and other countries in search of a better life, he said, those societies shouldn't turn their backs on them. He also urged Americans not to repeat past mistakes, including violence toward immigrants.
“Let us remember the golden rule," he said. "Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.”
He also called on US leaders to take "courageous" action on global environmental degradation, and to combat poverty while protecting nature. In his May encyclical, the pope said that global climate change poses the greatest threat to poor people and nations, who do not have the resources to move or to adapt to extreme weather and heat.
He called on America to put its knowledge, industry, and technological expertise toward improving the environment.
“America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead," he said.
But the pope also said that enterprise and the creation and use of wealth is important, especially if it's done justly.
"Business is a noble vocation," he said, especially if it views job creation as essential to the common good.