1. Pope Francis is among many things, a peacemaker. A peacemaker who likes to challenge everyone’s political beliefs and refuses to align himself with one specific (political) ideology. In a sense, he truly embraces the ‘universality’ and complexity of Catholicism and doesn’t boil it down to any one principle or belief. (Something I would say Catholics of all political leanings, ought to always remember.) He champions the golden rule, and that his role is to build bridges among people.
2. The Pope aligns himself with the most vulnerable in society. This includes the elderly, the poor, young people, workers, immigrants, etc. In particular, he touched on how we should not be afraid of foreigners and immigrants and see only the numbers – but we should see their individual stories. He also touched on how “young people may face challenges because of the immaturity of many adults.” Pope Francis has become a Pope that has a special reverence by young people, who he speaks of often, and encourages to have hope.
3. Pope Francis talks about the issues that actually matter in our time. We often talk about our leaders being out of touch – and I use the royal “we” in this sense. But Pope Francis discusses everything from new forms of slavery, to failed economic systems and poverty, to the nation’s response to the refugee crisis and immigration, to family life, to the importance of taking care of the environment, to the dignity of human life – including the global abolition of the death penalty. He touches on the “necessity of punishment in a society [is something that should] never exclude hope and rehabilitation.” (Criminal justice system reform anyone?)
4. Pope Francis challenges political leadership and all leadership for that matter. Pope Francis implores Congress constantly to fight for the common good, to have a sense of unity, to take into consideration the interests of all through sensible legislation. Pope Francis challenges all leaders to be wary of polarization, and that solidarity should be the goal. In an increasingly politically divisive culture, these words are timely and necessary.
5. The Pope is aware of the politics of religion. From the beginning of his address, the Pope discusses that no religion is immune from extremism, and additionally, we must be aware of all forms of fundamentalism. That we ought to be wary of the dichotomy of sinner versus saint/good versus evil, and deal with complexity of human beings. But also that people of many faiths have contributed and continue to contribute to the nation, and there is a role for faith in public society. Pope Francis puts forth that we need to strike a delicate balance between combatting violence in the name of political, economic, and religious ideologies, while also safeguarding religious and intellectual freedom.
You can find the full text of Pope Francis speech here.