WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — After his speech to Congress, the pope walked onto a balcony of the Capitol and greeted the throngs with “Buenos Dias.”
He expressed gratitude for their presence and asked God to bless “the most important ones here — children.”
Pope Francis asked a crowd of tens of thousands to pray for him.
It’s a plea he traditionally makes. But this time, speaking in Spanish, he added a line to acknowledge that not everyone in the crowd was Christian, much less a believer.READ MORE: Suspect Arrested After Brutal San Francisco North Beach Assault of Asian American Couple
Through a translator, the pontiff said: “If among you there are some who don’t believe or who cannot pray, I ask that you send good wishes my way.”
Earlier, after bipartisan group of congressional leaders escorted him up the aisle, the Pope made an historic speech in the House chamber.
He opened his speech by describing himself as a “son of this great continent” joined in a common purpose with America.
The Argentine-born pope is the first from the Americas, and his speech to Congress is the first by any pontiff.
The Pope brought his call for action on climate change to Congress. In his address, Francis urged a “courageous and responsible effort” to avert the most serious effects of what he called the “environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”
Francis says he’s convinced that working together, nations can make a difference to slow global warming. He says the U.S. and “this Congress” have an important role to play. Now, he says, is the time for a “culture of care.”
He lamented that the very basis of marriage and family life today is being put into question — an allusion to gay marriage in a country that recently legalized same-sex marriage across the land.
Francis said the family today is “threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”
While Francis has shown great openness to gays as individuals, he has staunchly upheld the church teaching that marriage is a union between man and woman.
Sitting in front of Francis for his speech was John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, which legalized gay marriage across the country.
The pope asked why weapons are being sold to people who intend only to inflict suffering on innocents. He said: “Sadly, the answer as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”
Francis has in the past denounced weapons makers and dealers as “the root of evil” and questioned how weapons manufacturers can call themselves Christian.
Pope Francis also expressed sympathy for American Indians for their “turbulent and violent” early contacts with arriving Europeans. But he said it is hard to judge past actions by today’s standards.READ MORE: COVID Reopening: San Francisco Public Elementary School Students Return To Classrooms
Francis did not specifically use the term American Indians. He said the rights of “those who were here long before us” were not always respected.
He says that “for those people and their nations,” he wants to express his highest esteem and appreciation.
Francis has been criticized by some Native Americans for his decision to canonize an 18th century missionary, Junipero Serra, on Wednesday. Indigenous groups say Serra was part of the violent colonizing machine that wiped out indigenous populations. Francis has defended Serra as a great evengelizer who protected indigenous peoples from the abuses of colonizers.
He also called for an end to the death penalty in the U.S. and across the world.
Francis says that every life is sacred and society can only benefit from rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.
The pope noted that U.S. bishops have renewed their call to abolish capital punishment. That idea is unpopular, however, with many American politicians.
The pontiff did not specifically mention abortion — a particularly contentious issue in Congress at the moment that threatens to force the shutdown of the U.S. government next week.
Still, his remarks referred to the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion. He urged lawmakers and all Americans to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
The Holy See urged Congress members — and the United States as a whole — not to be afraid of immigrants but to welcome them as fellow human beings.
He said people are not things that can be discarded just because they are troublesome.
The pontiff’s admonition comes as the presidential race is roiled by questions about immigration from Mexico and Latin America, and the nation is weighing how many migrants to accept from wars in the Middle East.
The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina himself, Francis noted that the United States was founded by immigrants, that many lawmakers are descended from foreigners, and that this generation must not “turn their back on our neighbors.”
His plea: “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”
Francis ended his remarks in English, saying “Thank you very much and God bless America.” The crowd cheered boisterously.MORE NEWS: Stimulus Check Update: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming Your Way?
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