Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis Calls for Common Good Before Congress

By: Scott Wood
Professor Emeritus

I join millions of Americans in celebrating the Pope's wise and deeply moving address to the joint meeting of Congress. An hour-long speech, the longest he has every given in English.

He called each of us to be our best selves in the spirit of Lincoln, MLK. Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. The four Americans that he spotlighted capture the principles of Catholic Social teaching and, at the same time, the best of our American cultural values. The Pope's wide-ranging talk both resonated with and also challenged liberals and conservatives. His call to promote the common good was a major theme that informed his points on caring for refugees and immigrants, for making a positive difference in climate change, for promoting civil dialogue between factions rather than supplying them with arms. He unequivocally condemned the death penalty saying that "Punishment must never exclude hope or rehabilitation."

More than the content of his speech, the Pope communicated a humility and kindness that reminded his listeners that the universal Golden Rule should govern our lives and guide our actions. Consistent with his open-hearted speech, he closed his visit to the Capitol bidding farewell from the balcony where he blessed the children and then asked non-believers and others who cannot pray to send him their best wishes. The Pope spoke to and for a truly universal church.

The Pope's speech connects directly with the LLS mission to educate lawyers who will commit to ethics and service in their practices, to contribute legal services to the underserved pro bono. The Pope's emphasis on the welfare of children is reflected in Loyola's Center for Juvenile Law & Policy; his opposition to the Death Penalty resonates with Project for the Innocent; his championing the cause of refugees and immigrants is mirrored in Loyola's immigration rights clinic. LLS is part of a Jesuit university that teaches students to be persons for others. Each of the Pope's four American exemplars--two non-Catholics and two Catholics--was a person for others.

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