After months of speculation about what he would discuss during his address to Congress, Pope Francis delivered remarks Thursday that emboldened liberals and conservatives alike.
Noting the political turmoil in Washington and abroad, Pope Francis called on the nation’s leaders to find compromise and compassion in their work. The pope’s comments on the environment and immigration were met with cheers from Democrats while his remarks on the importance of the family were applauded by Republicans.
When Pope Francis discussed the sanctity of life, the message was cheered both by liberals opposed to the death penalty and conservatives opposed to abortion.
“My family and I were blessed to hear from Pope Francis yesterday and today,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Catholic representing western Kansas. “He’s inspired us to continue fighting for our beliefs rooted in the clear teachings of our Catholic faith, especially the sanctity of life, marriage, family, and religious liberty.”
Huelskamp attended a canonization Mass with his son Athan on Wednesday. His guest for the pope’s address to Congress was his wife, Angela.
Throughout the papal address Thursday, Huelskamp offered commentary on his Twitter account.
“Pope Francis’ demand that we protect life at every state of its development drew greatest applause so far,” the Republican noted at one point.
Pope Francis’ address marked the first time a pope had spoken to Congress. In addition to the packed crowd within the House chambers, tens of thousands of people spilled across the National Mall to watch a telecast of the pontiff.
“Pope Francis emphasized that America is a land of ‘dreams,’ which hits home as we work to reinforce our shared goals of putting people first so that our children have every opportunity to get ahead and pursue their dreams,” Rep. Lynn Jenkins said.
Jenkins was one of many members of Congress to invite a clergyman to the papal address. Jenkins’ guest was the Rev. Mick Mulvaney of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Lawrence. Rep. Mike Pompeo was accompanied by the Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
“Pope Francis’ words of compassion and humility today certainly touched the hearts and minds of people everywhere,” Pompeo said. “His message about the power of faith and importance of love and service to others is an incredible reminder of the spiritual principles and morals on which our great nation was founded.”
The pope’s speech came at a time of bitter partisanship in the nation’s capital and low approval ratings for Congress, leaving many members hopeful that the spiritual leader could persuade the nation’s leaders to find compromise.
“Pope Francis spoke to many issues for which Congress does not yet have consensus, but we can all agree with his recognition of America as a nation that defends liberty and inspires many to dream,” Rep. Kevin Yoder said. “He was received warmly and all ears were listening during this historic moment.”