POLITICS

Politicians React To Pope Francis' Address To Congress

Pope Francis is the first pontiff to address Congress.

Pope Francis became the first pontiff to address the United States Congress on Thursday in a speech that addressed a broad range of issues affecting the country, including immigration, the death penalty and climate change.

After the speech, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle lauded the pope's speech, with many praising his message of compassion for society's most vulnerable.

“He touched on everything that quite frankly we need to work on," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said. "Political divisiveness, and the poor and families and all that stuff. I gotta tell you, I was very touched by that. It was amazing. I’m going to go back and read the speech again."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) offered similar praise.

"He had an overall message which was ... stand up for human dignity, for hopes and aspirations of people, look out for the planet... work for the common good," she said. "You have to look at it holistically and I was very inspired and very moved. And it was pretty deep, I’m going to get a copy of this and really read it paragraph by paragraph. This was something that you had to pay close attention to.”

"To have him fairly directly challenge us, to strengthen families to confront climate change, to deal with poverty and injustice, and to listen to each other more closely, to me was very inspiring," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). 

Many conservatives have criticized the pope's call to address climate change, and one congressman went so far as to boycott his speech over the issue. But Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said he believed the pope's remarks on the climate struck a good balance.

"I live in a state where your average blue collar worker's pathway to prosperity is working on an offshore oil rig or working in a petrol chemical plant and getting good job, good benefits so her or his child can have a better future," Cassidy said. "If we destroy those jobs, those people, those wonderful families that he spoke of... their future is markedly diminished. But none of those families wish to see environmental desperation. They wish to see that balance struck. And he spoke of that balance. I applaud that."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was skeptical that the pope's words would do much to mend Congress' deep divisions.

"We can always hope," he said. "But I think he’s operating in a more spiritual reality. We’re involved in the day to day back and forth, rough and tumble of politics and trying to actually find consensus."

Many other politicians, including some running for president, were quick to weigh in after the pope's speech. Here's some of what they said:

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Politicians React To Pope Francis' Address To Congress