Papal Visit: Endowed by Our Creator

In his own words:
Excerpts from Archbishop Chaput’s Introductory Remarks

The United States is an experiment in freedom ordered by law and ordered to basic truths about the human person. The greatest good in the American character comes from our belief in the merciful God, a God who guarantees the dignity and rights of all his children.

We live in an odd time in history. When the Church defends marriage and the family, the unborn child, and the purpose of human sexuality, she is attacked as being too harsh. When she defends immigrant workers and families that are broken by deportation, she is attacked as too soft. And yet the Church is neither of these things.

Pope John XXIII, now Saint John XXIII, described the Church as the mother and teacher of humanity — a mother who understands and loves the whole human person from conception to natural death, always, consistently, and everywhere.

When it comes to immigration, the church reminds us that, in the end, all of us are children of the same loving God. That makes us brothers and sisters despite the borders that separate us. And in arguing over borders to keep people out, we need to be vigilant against erecting those same borders in our hearts.

My dear friends, the person who speaks that truth most powerfully is with us today, and I invite the Holy Father, the son of immigrants, to share his thoughts with us now. Pope Francis.

In his own words:
Excerpts from Pope Francis’ Address
at Meeting for Religious Liberty with Hispanic Community
and Other Immigrants at Independence Mall, Philadelphia

The Declaration of Independence stated that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights. Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.

But history also shows that these or any truths must constantly be reaffirmed, re-appropriated and defended. The history of this nation is also the tale of a constant effort, lasting to our own day, to embody those lofty principles in social and political life. 

In this place which is symbolic of the American way, I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom. It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own.

Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families.

Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. They call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness. They remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of every claim to absolute power. 

Our religious traditions remind us that, as human beings, we are called to acknowledge an Other, who reveals our relational identity in the face of every effort to impose “a uniformity to which the egotism of the powerful, the conformism of the weak, or the ideology of the utopian would seek to impose on us” (M. de Certeau).

In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.

During his visit to the United States in 1987, Saint John Paul II paid moving homage to this, reminding all Americans that: “The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones” (Farewell Address, 19 September 1987, 3).

I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant. All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.

May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself. May he bless you all. I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me.

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