A woman next to me mentioned that she was not Catholic but loved this man, his charisma and all he said. After the excitement and cheers that his arrival caused, more followed when he described himself as “a son of this great continent.” People were silently and reverently waiting to hear more. At different times people approved of what was said with an applause or a cheer such as his mentioning his commitment to the global abolition of the death penalty.
When he spoke of the historical memory of the American people, of their democracy and politics and urged that they serve the people and promote what is good and most important to respect the dignity of all, everyone responded with a long applause. As he went on to mention the great worry that the social and political issues of the world caused him, people nodded as they silently agreed with him.
He said “I say this to you as the son of immigrants,” and kindly reminded us that “most of us were once foreigners,” and invited us all to “treat others with the same passion and compassion as we would like to be treated.”
Several times he mentioned that we need to enter into dialogues that will bring hope, healing, peace and justice. He talked of the call for renewal of spirit and collaboration as the way to defeat the “new forms of slavery, born of grave injustices,” such as the cycle of poverty, the arms trade and wars that cause the great migration of peoples.
He reminded us of our Declaration of Independence and how we hold these truths that “all men are created equal” or what we call in church, the dignity of the human person. Many social justice issues were mentioned such as the caring for creation, the right to use natural resources, the distribution of wealth, the application of technology, the creation of jobs and how all of these are essential to the service of the common good. He invited us all to courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care.” He asked us to pay special attention to families and especially to the most vulnerable, the young. He made us aware that their problems are our problems and we must not avoid them for the consequences are great. After reminding us of all that has made America a great nation he came outside and blessed us all from the balcony of the Capitol Building.
Hilda Cruz is the Coordinator of the Diocesan Justice for Immigrants Campaign.