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What we learned from the Pope’s politically-charged speech to Congress




Pope Francis is applauded by members of Congress as he arrives to speak during a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Pope Francis is applauded by members of Congress as he arrives to speak during a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Pope Francis wasted no time diving into the maelstrom that is U.S. politics when he became the first sitting Pope to address a joint session of the United States’ Congress on Thursday morning.

Speaking in slow, deliberate English, a language he has admitted he isn’t very comfortable speaking, Pope Francis called on members to heal the planet’s “open wounds,” and made a point to specifically address issues like immigration and climate change.

He also took the opportunity to indirectly allude to several social issues, possibly referring to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage when he said “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.” He also may have been taking on abortion when he said of the Catholic Church’s do-unto-others ‘Golden Rule,’ “[It] also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

The historic event was 20 years in the making for House Speaker John Boehner, who petitioned in the 1990s to have Pope John Paul II give a speech to Congress, but the invitation was never accepted.

What did you think of Pope Francis’ address to Congress? Did he neglect to bring up any issues you would have liked him to address? What, if anything, did we learn about Pope Francis from his speech? What does the Pope’s speech tell us about the direction of the Catholic Church?

Guest:

Jason Berry, religion writer who has is in DC covering the Pope’s visit for GlobalPost.  He is the author of “Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church” (Broadway Books, 2012)