Pope Francis implores Congress to accept immigrants as their own

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Pope Francis, a son of immigrants making history’s first papal address to the U.S. Congress, implored America’s leaders on Thursday to accept immigrants as their own children, putting aside political differences to embrace those who “travel north in search of a better life.”

In a speech that gently but firmly urged Americans to move beyond the partisan paralysis that year after year has prevented Congress from making progress on immigration reform, the pope wrapped traditional Catholic teachings into a celebration of American icons, including Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., drawing lessons from their work as he urged Congress to spurn the modern tendency toward polarization.

“Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility,” the pope said in heavily accented English. “Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation.”

In keeping with a trip designed to showcase this pope’s focus on the poor, immigrants and the disenfranchised, Francis went directly from Capitol Hill to St. Patrick in the City Church, and the nearby downtown headquarters of Catholic Charities.

At the church, he offered blessings to an audience of about 300 people that included clients of Catholic Charities — the homeless, the mentally ill, abuse victims and new immigrants — and parishioners in a neighborhood that has flipped over the last decade from marginalized to magnet.

Pope Francis — a symbol of unity for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics — arrived at the Capitol in his black papal Fiat at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, the third day of his first visit to the United States. He met briefly with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), a devout Roman Catholic who had invited three popes over two decades to speak to Congress, and was visibly proud that one of his invitations at last had been accepted.

The pope’s 10:01 a.m. arrival inside a packed the House chamber was announced by the House sergeant-at-arms, who said: “Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See.” Those words formally launched an event that would have been politically impossible through much of American history, when Catholics — especially waves of immigrants from Italy, Ireland and central Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — suffered widespread discrimination.

Read entire article, including transcript of the Pope's speech to Congress, here: http://wpo.st/nw-c0