Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States was a historical and noteworthy one. The Pope first met with President Barrack Obama on September 23, 2015 and made a speech at the White House addressing the press. The following day Pope Francis was scheduled to address a joint session of United States Congress with the Supreme Court in attendance. This was a first for the Vatican to address the United States in this fashion.
Weeks before cities began their safety planning for the arrival of Pope Francis by rerouting entire freeway systems to escort him quickly and conveniently to each speaking engagement. Preferential treatment of this magnitude has not been seen for any person before in our country’s history. Surprisingly, not once was the mention of separation of church and state broadcasted as each municipality, county, state, and even our national government bowed its will in servitude to Pope Francis’ visit.
During Pope Francis’ address to Congress, members of both Houses applauded and gave several standing ovations as he spoke words of peace and encouragement. He addressed topics covering a wide range; from the importance of family, taking in refugees fleeing ISIS, religious entities joining together to combat radicalism within their ranks, solving the abortion issue in America by helping solve the cause verses preventing the choice, use of technology to improve lives, encourage the need to solve climate change, and to continue to help the homeless.
The historical significance for the United States on this occasion was immense. This was the first time the Pope and Vatican had directly addressed our national government in this manner. This is the first time the United States has officially acknowledged the Pope as an authority in spiritual as well as a political influence throughout the world.
What did the United States learn from the Pope’s visit? Pope Francis demonstrated his kindness and compassion to all he came into contact with. Instead of receiving an expensive luncheon provided by Congress on the taxpayer’s dime in his honor, he chose to visit a homeless shelter. He kissed babies, shook the hands of the homeless and those assisting them. He visited New York and the epicenter of 9/11 now fourteen years passed. His words of encouragement touched many lives and brought hope to many weary people in our nation.
As time elapses after Pope Francis’ visit, it is up to Americans to not lose hope in their country. People need to continue to seek and practice justice at every decision, and yet remain merciful in how justice is upheld. Pope Francis reminds us of this, but it is up to Americans to put it into practice. No law or legal system can bring out a desire to help others that must come from within each individual.