Pope Francis began his first full day in Washington, D.C., with a welcoming ceremony at the White House, where an audience of 15,000 crowded the South Lawn.
Francis does not address Congress until Thursday, but already he is giving Republicans reason to grind their teeth, introducing himself as “the son of an immigrant family,” and noting that America “was largely built by such families.” But he focused more on climate issues:
Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.
Even his mention of religious liberty cannot assuage that blow to all the congressional Republicans who have been running around dismissing this pope’s moral statements on climate and inequality as mere politics about which he’s not really entitled to speak, while practically begging him to talk politics in the form of abortion and marriage. If “proud Catholic” Rep. Paul Gosar didn’t extend his in-person boycott of the pope to a total news blackout, someone should probably go check to be sure he’s okay.
Following the White House ceremony, a parade around the Ellipse and parts of the National Mall is planned for 11:00 ET.
Below is a video of Pope Francis talking about climate change this morning: