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God bless America and the United Nations

HONG KONG (SE): As the first pope in history to address an assembly of the United States Congress in Washington DC, Pope Francis concluded his address with a resounding, “God bless America.”

Throughout his visit to the United States of America (US), he remained his usual self, praising what he sees as life-giving and warning about what he sees as life-threatening.

He encouraged initiatives towards world peace and cooperation among nations, while warning against what creates tension.

In speaking with the bishops of the US he was pastoral and to the people he spoke words of encouragement and hope.

He addressed the congress as representing the face of the people and cited four Americans from the rich history of the development of the civilisation of the US as making significant contributions to what he sees both as its greatness and potential for further greatness.

He singled out Abraham Lincoln, for his contribution to the liberty of all people; Martin Luther King, for his promotion of liberty in plurality and non-exclusion of anyone, as well as inspiring people to dream.

“That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be… a land of dreams. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment.”

He then added to his list Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, for her contribution to the development of the rights of labour, promotion of social justice and dignity of all people; and the Trappist priest, Father Thomas Merton, for his capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

He said that these four represent something special in the building of a great nation under God.

He held them up as people who lived by what he termed the Golden Rule, by recognising that the yardstick we use for others is also the yardstick that will judge us, saying that it is our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

He held his four American heroes up as examples of political activity serving and promoting the common good, the common good of our common home based on respect for all life and creation.

“If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance,” he pointed out.

In becoming the fifth pope to address the United Nations in New York, Pope Francis praised the achievements of the august body, especially in protecting the rights of the weak and placing limits on the indulgences of the powerful.

“All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness,” Pope Francis said.

He added that without these restraints, humankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities.

However, he added that broad sectors remain vulnerable, among which he listed the environment. “First, it must be stated that a true right of the environment does exist... because we human beings are part of the environment.”

He explained that humanity can only develop if the environment remains favourable to human life and that every creature, particularly living creatures, have an intrinsic value, beauty and interdependence on other creatures.

“The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accomplished by a relentless process of exclusion,” Pope Francis said, adding that a boundless thirst for power and prosperity has led to the abuse of both natural resources themselves and the people who are too weak to protect their own backyards.

He called this both economic and social exclusion and a complete denial of human fraternity, as well as an offence against the rights of the environment.

He then described the poor, who are robbed of their livelihood by this greed, as being part of what is thrown away by society in a quietly growing culture of waste.

He listed a long litany of abuses, ranging from human trafficking to the exclusion of people from land, housing, decent work and education, calling this a result of this culture of waste—of which the large-scale destruction of biodiversity is one element.

He described it as a mismanagement of the global economy and a failure on the part of national leaders who are responsible for implementing systems of justice that are effective, constant and concrete in protecting the rights of all creation.

The pope called the failure to achieve this in so many places a summons to a forthright reflection on the nature of human freedom, which is not created by men.

But he pointed out that an arrogance that believes humans are above nature compromises all creation, as it leaves self as the only recognisable value.

Pope Francis added, “Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of saving succeeding generations from war, promoting social progress and better standards of life in a larger freedom, risks becoming an unattainable illusion.”

However, he pointed out that what may be even worse is, “Idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonisation by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles, which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.”

Pope Francis then quoted the first pope to address the United Nations, Pope Paul VI, just half a century ago.

“The edifice of modern civilisation has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it,” he said Pope Paul told the worldwide body in 1965.

Pope Francis also quoted the Argentine author, El Gaucho Martin Fierro, as saying, “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always… if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured from the outside.”

Pope Francis concluded by noting, “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life… (and must) also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.”


He called on all people to be prophets, not of tearing down, but building up; prophets of reconciliation—prophets of peace.

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