09.24.15

Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) After Pope Francis’s Address Before A Joint Meeting Of Congress

Emotions in the chamber were close to the surface for many, many in the room, including me.

Beyond the history that was made by the fact that he is the first Pope to address the Congress, he brought a message that is substantively relevant, here and now.  He touched on a wide variety of compelling issues that have lingered, for far too long, on Congress’s back burner. 

At the heart of his message, he appeals to the best in each of us, invoking the simple and eloquent guidance of the Golden Rule.  He counsels against extremism and for tolerance and inclusion.  He appeals in relevant ways to those of all religions, and to those of no religious affiliation.

Those who struggle, or suffer, or live in poverty, or those who have lost hope do not have the access in the halls of power that the rich and the powerful do.  They are the voiceless as policy decisions are made.  Pope Francis gave them his voice, directly addressing decision makers who can do something about these things.

If his visit can help change the tone in a political process that often seems poisoned by extremism and self-interest, that alone can help clear the path to progress on these urgent challenges facing our nation and the world.

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[Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has led on many of the issues that Pope Francis touched on in his address, including justice reform, refugee policy, immigration reform and climate change.  He steered the bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill through the Judiciary Committee and the Senate.  Last year he was the key intermediary in the exchange of personal letters among the Pope, the President, and Cuba’s Cardinal Ortega (on releasing Alan Gross, and other matters), at a crucial juncture on the path toward normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba.]

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