A Christian comes to America

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Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill  in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, making history as the first pontiff to do so. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, making history as the first pontiff to do so. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

When I was listening to Pope Francis speak to a joint session of Congress, my thoughts turned back to another Francis, the man, long a saint, from Assisi.

“Make me an instrument of thy peace,” St. Francis prayed in words set to a beautiful choral arrangement.

Here was this 78-year-old pontiff who seems to embody the grace and humility of the man whose name he has taken. And the mantle he has placed on himself fits this Francis as if it were tailor-made just for him.

What we heard was no lecture on birth control and only an oblique reference to abortion and that almost as an aside.

Here was the real gospel. How could you not just love this meek but wise old man?

He invited members of Congress, and then, further into his visit to America, delegates to the United Nations to care about the poor.

Did I read that he visited a shelter and blessed the meals of 300 homeless? Did he gently nudge Republicans and Democrats to stop partisan bickering and work together for everyone?

Build bridges, he advised. What a radical, this pope!

He could have been reading one of my old editorials of 20 years ago. Smart guy!

Pope Francis wins my vote further for appealing to U.S. and world leaders to act on the impending threat to the planet of climate change.

“Urgent action” is called for, he said. Urgent that means now, not tomorrow and not when the titans of industry say it’s OK.

I’m sure a lot of members of Congress bristled when he invited Americans to welcome immigrants. Of course, this nation of immigrants surely has no business building walls. What gives? This very wise pontiff sees that.

I promise I didn’t write the speech. It was Pope Francis’ idea to insert into the speech my four favorite heroes, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker and that radical Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

Did he even mention anyone else by name? I don’t recall. Now there’s a kindred of spirit for this old Unitarian for sure.

The crowds the man drew! I bet this pope attracted larger crowds of well-wishers than any returning generals, MacArthur, Ike, Patton. Sometimes, people prefer the man of peace.

The preacher in him couldn’t resist a call for the end of the death penalty and an end to the profit-driven proliferation of guns. I could easily have hired him as an editorial writer.

Who else in the whole wide world could have brokered a deal that opened diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba? Go suck a lemon you die-hard Cold Warriors!

I’m glad he stopped by. Pope Francis’ visit to America reminds us all of what’s really important and how we can all make a difference for what’s truly good. Come again soon, Francis. You’re always welcome.

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