In an historical first, Pope Francis is going to address the U.S. Congress on Sept. 24. It should be quite a bipartisan scene with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leading the way. They rarely agree on anything, but both happen to be Catholic (although I would bet that they interpret their Catholicism quite differently!)
In Pelosi, Pope Francis will deal with a strong woman leader who does not fit his stereotypes of women. I hope she gets a chance to say something about gender equality.
But what should Pope Francis say? I thought I would help him out and make some suggestions.
First, he might note that the Congress is a hallmark of democracy with elected representatives who enact laws and policies that affect people’s lives. He has, of course, seen similar institutions in Argentina and other countries, but he might use the moment to ponder (in his heart, not his speech) what it might be like to have a more democratic Catholic church, with an elected assembly of some type. The Catholic church is past due for such changes.
After that, he needs to speak -- as he has so eloquently elsewhere -- about the plight of the poor, both domestically and worldwide. He would do well to stress the responsibility of wealthy countries like the United States in alleviating poverty around the globe. He might even mention the phrase “redistribution of wealth” -- which would send at least one half of both chambers up the wall.
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With immigration a hot issue, he should consider sharing a statement he made recently -- namely, that he wanted to come into the U.S. by walking across our southern border, as immigrants commonly do. He might cite our history as a “nation of immigrants,” and urge the Congress to continue to welcome immigrants, and certainly not separate families.
By September, he will have issued his statement on climate change, which is expected to be strong. So he might decry the economic interests who are still promoting “climate denial.” And he might emphasize the urgency of global action to save the planet. There are several members of Congress in that chamber who need to hear that message.
He might also urge Congress to work with President Barack Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
And then, he might cite the need for civility, cooperation and compromise in a democratic setting. Members on both sides of the aisle could use to hear something on that.
Whatever he says, it is guaranteed to make global news, and rock some boats.