Pope urges to embrace migrants
Washington (Sept.24, 2015) – Referring to the migration crisis in Europe and USA, Pope Francis issued a ringing call to action on behalf of immigrants while addressing US Congress on Thursday. He urged US lawmakers to embrace “the stranger in our midst” as he became the first pontiff in history to address a joint session of the Congress. He summoned lawmakers to “to respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”
“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 as we can to their situation,” Francis urged.
He was welcomed enthusiastically to a House chamber packed with Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officials, and lawmakers of both parties. Thursday’s speech was the latest highlight for the pope’s whirlwind three-day visit to Washington.
He was cheered by jubilant crowds on Wednesday as he visited the White House, where he and President Barack Obama embraced each other’s warnings on climate change. Francis urged lawmakers, and the United States as a whole, not to be afraid of migrants but to welcome them as fellow human beings, not things that can be discarded just because they are troublesome.
Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, recalled that the America itself was founded by immigrants, that many lawmakers are descended from foreigners and that that new generations must not “turn their back on our neighbors.”
Given an ovation when he spoke of the Golden Rule, he said, “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”
Francis has made migration the top priority of his pontificate. His first trip outside Rome as pope was to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Ground Zero of Europe’s migration crisis where some 365 migrants drowned within view of shore in October 2013. Recently, he called on all parishes and religious orders around the world to take in refugee families, and matched his call by hosting two such families in the Vatican. On his way to the airport last Saturday, he called on the Syrian family of four who had recently taken up residence in a Vatican flat. The experience was humbling, he said later: “You could see the pain in their faces.”