Statewide Reaction to Pope Francis’ Congressional Address
Earlier, we provided a list of the guest that each PA Representative brought to the occasion.
Now we’ve compiled the reaction of elected officials throughout the commonwealth:
Senator Pat Toomey
“Today, Pope Francis became the first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress. It was an historic visit and I am so pleased that Monsignor Schlert of the Allentown Diocese could be my guest for this special occasion.
“Like many Pennsylvanians, I also am very proud that Pope Francis has decided to visit Philadelphia this weekend for the World Meeting of Families Conference. It is fitting that the Holy Father will visit the Commonwealth. Our founder, William Penn, saw our colony as a place where those of any faith could plant roots, raise families, and prosper in the light of both personal liberty and God’s plan. It is my hope that all of Pennsylvania will be enriched by the presence of the Holy Father whose humility and compassion have provided a marvelous example for all of us.”
Senator Bob Casey
“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.”
Congressman Mike Kelly
“Yesterday [when the Pope arrived] this calmness descended over the city and it’s settled in now. The scowls have all turned to smiles. I’m thinking that the Pope is going to deliver a message of mercy and of hope and of everything that we hold near and dear to us, so I’m expecting to hear a little bit about life, the sanctity of life, from its very beginning to its natural end. … None of us should be worried or afraid about what the Pope has to say.
“I want to hear everything the Pope has to say. We are a nation of great people and of great faith and our Judeo-Christian beliefs lead us in a way that other places in the world don’t go. I’m so anxious to hear what the Holy Father has to say, to bring it in, to make it part of our life, and look at how we can incorporate all these ideas that he has, all these theories that he has, all the teachings that he has, to make it not just a better country but a better world.
“Being a graduate of Notre Dame, Our Lady’s University, I just can’t wait to hear this Pope’s message and hear what he has to say and what he brings to the floor of Congress.”
Congressman Glenn Thompson
“As the spiritual leader to nearly one-sixth of the world’s population, Francis is the first Pope to address a joint meeting of Congress. I am proud to share this momentous occasion with those who have traveled from Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District to hear his message.
“While some may choose to over politicize this occasion, I believe Pope Francis’ message, which emphasizes the importance of humility, charity and the dignity of human life resonates with many people from all faiths and denominations.”
Congressman Ryan Costello
“It was a historic day on Capitol Hill, and it was especially exciting to have Ms. Jeannine Ferrante join me as my guest. She is an 86-year-old West Pottsgrove Township resident, and has been an active member of the St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother Parish in Stowe for over 65 years.
“I found a couple of points to be particularly interesting: First, the Pope touched on ‘hot topic’ issues such as climate change, the death penalty, immigration, and the refugee crisis. These are not often topics individuals like to discuss. During this portion of the remarks, Members of Congress attentively listened, even if they may not have agreed with his stance. He highlighted the necessity to continue a dialogue and find consensus on many of these pressing issues.
“Second, his remarks transcended Catholicism. He spoke of the greater need for lawmakers and Americans to put the needs of people first and think through issues in a pragmatic, thoughtful way. He urged all to reflect on the characteristics of a good leader. He touched on the need for respect for differences and respect for humanity — something we can all take to heart. Additionally, I found his call for a renewed sense of cooperation to be timely, as Congress can often be a frustratingly polarized place.”
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick
“It was an honor to be present as Pope Francis addressed a Joint Session of Congress, the first pope in history to do so. He is a kind and humble man who can speak to people of all faiths and ideologies with love and understanding.
“I welcome the Pope’s message and call on my colleagues to renew the spirit of cooperation that Pope Francis reminds us ‘has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States.’”
Congressman Tom Marino
“The Pope’s message was deeply moving to me. It was optimistic, hopeful and full of heart. His message was uplifting and positive; something often missing in Washington. When mentioning the importance of opportunity he touched the very core of what America stands for: opportunity for all, whether economic, social or judicial. America stands as a beacon of equality under the law, and people from around the world seek to come here with hope of that opportunity.
“I especially appreciated Pope Francis’ comments about the United States being a force for good. I was impressed by his mastery of our history and the goodness of our people. It makes me feel proud as an American and as a Roman Catholic to know that the Holy Father recognizes our place in the world and our capacity to do good for the world.
“While the pundits speculated and the commentators chattered before and after his speech, I thought this was not about staking claims on who is right or wrong. No politician should use this speech as an opportunity to ‘possess spaces’ as being right. Instead, we should be inspired by his message of opportunity and work to be better for those we serve, for future generations, and for those around the world who continue to see America as a land of dreams.”
Congressman Lou Barletta
“It was a singular honor for me and my wife, Mary Grace, to be present in the House chamber when Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress, the first time any pope has done so. These are very troubling times in which we live, and the pope’s message of peace is something that people of all faiths – or no faith at all – can benefit from. We should be greeting the Holy Father as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats, and check our politics at the door as we do so. He is the leader of one of the great religions of the world, the successor to Saint Peter, and we should all listen to and reflect on what he has to say.
“As a Catholic, I revere the pope as the leader of my church, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, and I am glad to have him open conversations about secular policy, which we may consider and discuss freely. Whether Pope Francis’s remarks confirmed your position on a certain issue, or caused you to examine your own beliefs, his speech was a call for us to be better caretakers of each other and our world. As matters of public policy, members of Congress may disagree on the pathway to achieving certain goals, but his overall message is something we can all embrace.
“I agree with Pope Francis that we must be good stewards of the environment, and appreciate his embrace of new technologies as a means to that end. His view that prosperous nations such as ours should welcome new citizens is well taken, as is the church’s Catechism that those new arrivals must respect the laws of their new host countries. Finally, he was unequivocal about the sanctity of life, and that we must cherish and protect life in all of its stages.
“When the pope speaks of caring for the poor, the sick, and the unborn, he is speaking to what many of us believe. It is fitting that he has visited America, because this is a nation which shares his vision of putting people in position to be able to pursue their dreams and enjoy the blessings of liberty.
“This was an extraordinary thrill for Mary Grace and me to witness Pope Francis’s address, as well as the canonization mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. These are experiences we will never forget.”
Congressman Keith Rothfus
“It was a tremendous honor to welcome Pope Francis to Congress to address us at this important moment in history. His message was one of hope and dialogue,” said Congressman Rothfus. “The Pope reminded us that ‘the common good is the chief aim of all politics.’ He also reminded us of the importance of the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – in addressing today’s problems, including the protection of human life at every stage of its development. I look forward to future dialogue regarding the Pope’s address.”
Congressman Charlie Dent
“It was a privilege to listen to Pope Francis’ message this morning of tolerance, mutual respect, understanding, justice and humility. Everyone in the room could identify with many aspects of Pope Francis’ message. I was personally grateful that his presence brought a sense of calm and greater civility to D.C. over the last two days. His speech and his delivery were textbook examples of how to share one’s beliefs while respecting the perspectives of others. It would be nice if Pope Francis could stay with us for a week or two to keep Congress on its best behavior. It was also gratifying to be able to provide tickets to constituents so that they could experience the Pontiff firsthand.”
Congressman Matt Cartwright
“I am struck by the historical significance of His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, and honored to have witnessed Pope Francis address a Joint Session of Congress this morning.
“I share key public policy priorities and commitments set forward by Pope Francis during his tenure. Specifically, I was pleased and inspired that His Holiness discussed the caring for the marginalized and the poor, advancing economic opportunity for all, and serving as good stewards of the environment.
“I am very much moved by the presence of the Holy Father and my hope is that his message will stir policy makers to make the world a better place for all of its citizens.”