Pope Francis's Address to a Joint Meeting of Congress, Abridged

The following has been abridged and adapted from Pope Francis’s speech Thursday.

Pope Francis addresses Congress. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

I am most grateful for your invitation. I too am son of this great continent, from which we have received much and share a common responsibility for. We all have a mission. You, Congress, are here to enable this country to grow. Remember, the chief aim of politics: A society endures when it seeks to stimulate the growth of all its members, especially the vulnerable. Your work makes me think of Moses: bringing people together through law.

1. Our world is increasingly violent. We know that no religion is immune from individual delusion or ideological extremism. We must be attentive to every type of fundamentalism. We need a delicate balance combating violence perpetrated in the name of a religion or ideology, while safeguarding freedoms. But there’s something we must avoid: reducing the world to “good” and “evil” camps. We must confront all sources of this polarization. The challenges of the world demand that we pool our resources and talents. Cooperation among people of all faiths is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery.

2. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. Politics is an expression of our compelling need to live as one. If politics is at the service of the human person, it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is an effort to build the greatest common good: a community which sacrifices interests in order to share. I know this is difficult.

3. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners. Most of us were once foreigners. I am the son of immigrant, and so are many of you. When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins of the past. We have to educate new generations not to turn their back on our neighbors. We must constantly relate to others, and reject a mindset of hostility.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. On this continent, too, thousands travel north in search of a better life. Is this not what we want for our own children? Think of these refugees as people, not numbers. We need to avoid a common temptation: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

4. The Golden Rule also reminds us to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. I advocate for the global abolition of the death penalty. This is for the best, since every life is sacred. Society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

5. Again, remember those trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be constant. Part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. Natural resources, enterprise, and technology are essential for a modern, inclusive society. Business can service the common good.

6. This common good has to include conserving the Earth. We need a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. We can make a difference. I’m sure. The United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play.

***To recap thus far: We have to have an integrated approach to combat poverty, include the excluded (immigrants, refugees), and protect nature.***

7. Also, world peace! I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past [Editor’s note: Iran? Cuba?]. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism.

We have to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Why are deadly weapons being sold to inflict untold suffering? Sadly, the answer is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

8. And finally, I cannot hide my concern for the family. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable: the young. Their problems are our problems. We might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

9. It is my desire that the rich cultural spirit of America continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

10. God bless America!