Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement following Pope Francis’ remarks to a joint session of Congress:
“Today, Pope Francis delivered an inclusive and affirming message to Congress about the basic obligations we have to one another and our common home, earth. He also urged members of both parties to work in cooperation for the common good. Pope Francis has lived a life of compassion informed by integrity. From his days in Argentina to his current time as leader of the Catholic Church he has been the true definition of a servant leader. His message of service goes beyond one faith and has appealed to both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Underlying the Pope’s remarks today was a call to serve and in particular a call to serve the marginalized, the vulnerable and the less fortunate, like the refugees impacted by the conflict in Syria and immigrants who yearn for a better life for their families. Pope Francis also made clear that one of the best steps we can take to help those struggling is to work for an economy that works for all. Justice cannot abide an economy where those who are working can’t make ends meet for their families and where children don’t have enough to eat. Pope Francis has called all people to engage in service to those who live on the margins of our society for whom poverty often engulfs their lives.
In his remarks at the White House, Pope Francis shared his excitement about visiting a nation that was built by immigrants. There’s no doubt our future as a beacon of freedom and opportunity depends on an immigration system that is fair, just and underwritten with a sense of compassion. The Pope’s discussion of our nation’s immigration challenges is an opportunity to restart the dialogue on comprehensive reform.
Pope Francis has also reminded our nation and the world about the need to take substantial steps to confront climate change. Climate change exists and there’s no doubt that human activities are a major factor. The evidence is all around us- rising temperatures, melting glaciers and shifts in migratory bird patterns among others. Addressing climate change is a moral imperative and a key for our nation’s economic security, national security, public health and the health of our environment. In his encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’’, Pope Francis reminds us of the sacred stewardship we owe to our common home. Pope Francis’ encyclical also makes clear “the need to protect employment.” As our nation transitions to clean energy we must take steps to ensure our nation’s energy workers are protected. A deep, abiding respect for our environment is consistent with our values and consistent with the future we owe to the generations that follow. In Article I Section 27 of Pennsylvania’s State Constitution our citizens are promised the ‘right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment’. The State Constitution acknowledges that we have an obligation to protect our natural resources because they belong to ‘all the people, including the generations to come.’ Without action our world faces potentially grave risks: food insecurity, malnutrition, water scarcity and childhood stunting. In order to prevent horrific outcomes due to climate change, we must act.
Pope Francis also made clear that what undergirds the success of our nation is a society in which all citizens can worship freely and one’s faith isn’t a barrier to fully participating in the life of our nation. It’s that inclusive nature of free societies across the globe that has led so many refugees to risk their lives to seek better futures for their families. As the conflict in Syria drags into its fourth year as many as 4.1 million Syrians are refugees. American taxpayers have already made a significant contribution of more than $4.5 billion dollars to address the crisis in Syria. As our nation finds ways to do more we must also insist that other nations keep their commitments to the World Food Programme which has had to cut aid to refugees due to lack of funding.
I believe Pope Francis’ inspiring address will have a lasting impact. He has spent a life dedicated to service. He believes his role is not only that of a leader but of a servant who takes his message directly to the people. Pope Francis has gone out of his way during this trip to interact with Americans from all backgrounds. He hasn’t been an exultant leader but one interacts who those he serves. In his Homily at the National Basilica he reminded us to ‘always go forward.’ Our nation must do so with the servant’s heart that has defined our history.”