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'I Am Convinced That We Can Make A Difference,' Pope Tells Congress

Pope Francis, in an address to a joint meeting of Congress, encouraged lawmakers to work together to solve the problems of ordinary Americans and to show compassion for people across the globe who are suffering from war and hunger.

His message touched on some of the biggest political controversies of our day, — immigration and the migration crisis in Europe, the death penalty, abortion, the arms trade, poverty and religious extremism.

At the top of the post, we have a video of the speech as it was delivered on Capitol Hill this morning.

Here's our live blog of the event.

Updated at 11:11 a.m. ET:

Appearing at the Speakers Balcony, flanked by a visibly moved House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President Joe Biden, Pope Francis greeted thousands of people who had gathered.

"I am so grateful for your presence here. The most important ones here, the children, have asked God to bless them."

"Bless each of them. Bless the families."

"If there are any of you that do not believe or cannot pray, I want you to send good wishes my way," he added.

"God Bless America!"

Pope Francis, accompanied by members of Congress, waves to the crowd from the Speakers Balcony on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Thursday.
Doug Mills / AP
Pope Francis, accompanied by members of Congress, waves to the crowd from the Speakers Balcony on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Thursday.

Updated at 10:55 a.m. ET:

In conclusion, the pope says:

"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!"

Updated at 10:53 a.m. ET:

He calls on Congress to seek "effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions."

Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET:

"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."

Updated at 10:49 a.m. ET:

Politicians have an obligation to end war:

"Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold 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 this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET:

"Merton was a promoter of peace between peoples."

Updated at 10:43 a.m. ET:

Calls on technology, particularly that generated by American research institutions, to help solve the problem of climate change.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET:

On climate change: "We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental change we are undergoing, and its human roots, concerns and affects us all."

"I am convinced that we can make a difference. I am sure."

Updated at 10:38 a.m. ET:

On income inequality: "I encourage you to keep in mind those people who are trapped among us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. ... Hunger must be fought on all fronts. ... The fault is the creation and distribution of wealth."

Updated at 10:34 a.m. ET:

In a reference to abortion: "The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development." (to applause)

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

"... A just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation."

Updated at 10:32 a.m. ET:

"Let us remember the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ... 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."

The pope adds:

"[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."

Updated at 10:31 a.m. ET: On Europe's 'migrant crisis':

"Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents 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 opportunities."

(to applause)


"Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their 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."

Updated at 10:26 a.m. ET:

Cheers as the pope says of immigration:

"We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners."

He adds:

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

"... must not repeat the sins of the past."

Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET:

On MLK's dream of equality: "That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of 'dreams.'"

Updated at 10:21 a.m. ET:"The challenges facing us today ... call for a spirit of cooperation that has shown so much good throughout the history of the United States."

Updated at 10:17 a.m. ET:

The pope warns against religious extremism and fundamentalism:

"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."

He adds:

"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."

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET:

"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."

Updated at 10:14 a.m. ET:

The pontiff singles out four Americans as exemplars of the spirit of the country: President Abraham Lincoln; Martin Luther King Jr.; , the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement; and Thomas Merton, the American Cistercian monk, pacifist and author.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET:

Francis says he wants to speak to all Americans: "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 day's work, to bring home the daily bread, to save money and — one step at a time — to build a better life for their families."

Updated at 10:07 a.m. ET:

"A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on the care of the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you."

Updated at 10:05 a.m. ET:

Loud applause after Francis says he's honored to address Congress in the "land of the free; home of the brave."

Updated at 10:02 a.m. ET:

Lawmakers clap and cheer as Pope Francis enters the chamber. The pontiff takes the podium in front of House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President Biden. Boehner introduces him to those gathered.

Here's our original post ...

Pope Francis, in his second full day in the United States, will address a joint meeting of Congress, where he is expected to encourage lawmakers to work together to help the poorest members of society.

Ahead of the address, Francis met with House Speaker John Boehner, who has dismissed concerns that the pope's visit will stir political controversy.

"The pope transcends all of this," Boehner said. "He appeals to our better angels and brings us back to our daily obligations. The best thing we can all do is listen, open our hearts to his message and reflect on his example."

Attending are some 500 lawmakers and officials. Four Supreme Court justices, including three of the six Catholics on the bench, will be present — Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is Jewish, will also attend.

As The New York Times writes: "In his first visit to the United States, Francis, 78, seemed eager to pass over his previous criticisms of a materialistic, capitalist culture and instead reach out to the world's most powerful nation. He praised the country's devotion to freedom of liberty and religion even as he cautioned that its vast resources demanded a deep sense of moral responsibility. 'God bless America,' he said at the White House."

NPR's Tamara Keith notes that Francis will be speaking to a group of lawmakers who are much more Christian than the rest of the nation.

After his address, the pope is scheduled to visit and He is expected to have lunch with the homeless being served by the charity's St. Maria's Meals program.

In the afternoon, he will fly to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and attend vespers in the evening at

On Friday, he will address the United Nations General Assembly.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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