Pope Francis Addresses Income Inequality in Speech to Congress


Pope Francis addressed Congress Thursday morning, the first time a Pope has ever done so. In his historic inaugural visit to the U.S., Francis has broached politically divisive topics including climate change, poverty and marriage.

While they serve on opposite sides of the aisle, Speaker of the House John Boehner and the Vice President and President of the Senate Joe Biden are both Catholic and greeted the Pope ahead of his address.

The Pope opened to Congress by saying, "Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation." He targeted his speech not only at the politicians in the room, but also "the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day's work."

Overall, Francis' speech took a decidedly bipartisan tone, showing support for both Conservative and Liberal issues.

"It’s a mistake when people call Pope Francis a liberal Pope. His comments were aimed at building bridges and his comments ranged across the political divide," said Eric LeCompte, a religious commentator and chair of Jubilee USA, a financial reform group.

Francis, who has been critical of capitalism, said, "The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem."

He went on to say that the way to achieve an inclusive and sustainable economy is to create and distribute wealth.

Instead of targeting Wall Street and corporations though, the Pope took aim at the structures that enable poverty. "Messages of this Pope revolve around structures and preventing corruption. He's inviting us to change the structure regarding poverty," says LeCompte.

The leader of the Catholic Church elaborated on his economic comments when he said that the world should stand in solidarity with Greece as the Mediterranean nation suffers an ongoing fiscal crisis.

The Pope also addressed the pro-life debate ahead of a potential government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding due to recent videos showing Planned Parenthood executives selling fetal tissue.

When discussing the "golden rule" of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," Francis said that life should be protected at all stages; a direct call to pro-life supporters. His comments drew large applause from the GOP members of Congress.

The Pope briefly discussed the European refugee crisis, religious fundamentalism and called for global abolition of the death penalty.

Francis was scheduled to travel to New York City on Thursday afternoon for two days of events including a Mass at Madison Square Garden, a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and a speech to the United Nations.

His U.S. trip will conclude in Philadelphia, where he will visit the Independence Mall.