To fight poverty, the pope said that “it goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth.”
The focus on redistributing wealth is sure to stir discontent among Republicans who have dismissed that as a socialist principle.
The pope turned the mirror on the Congress itself, a body that has often found itself stymied by polarization, each side dug in so far that it has breezed past deadlines and become inflexible to respond to a crisis.
“A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk,” Francis said. ”Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this, you have been invited, called, and convened by those who elected you.”
Even before the pope’s arrival, Republicans and Democrats were looking for validation for their political positions by arguing their side had the pope with them on anything from climate change for Democrats to abortion for Republicans.
The pope’s address came just as Republican leaders are approaching a deadline to fund the government and some conservative rank-and-file members are calling on leaders to defund Planned Parenthood, a group that funds women’s health care with the government money, but also carries out abortions with other funds.
While it was not be the main focus of his address, the pope still reminded the audience of his position on abortion. Like many conservatives in the chamber, he is unapologetically anti-abortion.
“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” he told them.
The pope also only briefly spoke about marriage, hinting at same-sex marriage.
“Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life,” he said.
The pope’s speech was almost entirely filled with the most contentious political issues of the day. He discouraged lawmakers from letting private businesses influence their pursuit of legislation that does good. And, on the issue of climate change, the pope confronted members and encouraged them to take action.
The White House has taken steps unilaterally to cut down carbon emissions often at the bemoaning of congressional Republicans, but the pope reminded Congress it should do more.
“I call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference, and I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play,” he said.