Lessons from Pope Francis

9 years ago

U.S. Sen. Angus King, (I-Maine)

“We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”

–          Pope Francis, in his address to a joint session of Congress, September 24, 2015

The Pope’s much-anticipated arrival in the United States was met by large crowds of enthusiastic supporters who all came to Washington to see what wisdom and guidance this powerful yet soft-spoken man had to share. I was thrilled to spend the last few days with the good Father Mike Seavey of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, who came to our nation’s capital as my guest for Pope Francis’s historic visit at the White House and address to Congress. Father Seavey and I have been close friends for more than forty years, and we were both humbled, excited – and a little nervous – to be in the presence of such an extraordinary and dynamic man.

Pope Francis’s visit could not come at a more important time for the United States. The current political climate in our country is one of immense polarization that pits one ideology against another and leaves little room for compromise. There’s no question we are faced with enormous challenges, and I think we would do well to listen to the Pope’s message of togetherness, put aside our differences, and work together on behalf of the people we serve.

The Pope’s poignant remarks on unity and harmony come from his deeply moral and theological convictions. But his words should ring true for all of us, regardless of our religion or political persuasions. Inherent in our society is a belief in equality and respect, and those of us with the privilege to represent our states and districts in Washington must not lose sight of that truth. As he so eloquently said in his remarks to Congress, the chief aim of all politics  is to “to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.” I couldn’t agree more.

If the Pope has taught us anything this week, it’s that we are one people, regardless of race, gender, economic status, or anything else, and that we owe to one another respect, kindness, compassion, and good will – fundamental values that transcend partisanship and politics. I hope we not only heed the Pope’s words, but also follow his example as we work to bring people together and solve our nation’s most pressing problems.