A few words from Pope Francis' visit to the US should be seen as timely reminders on three very contentious issues in the world today. I believe they are worth highlighting in view of the impassioned views they evoke in national and international news coverage, and within certain religious circles.
1. On Terrorism:
In his comments on the violent threats facing the world from different forms of fundamentalisms, Francis noted, "that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism." In fact, all United Nations documents and resolutions on terrorism and counter-terrorism reaffirm the notion that "terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group."
2. On the perception and treatment of foreigners:
- Welcoming and not fearing foreigners: "We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners."
- Refugees are persons not numbers, and proper response must be one of empathy and kindness: "Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War...We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
- On Immigrants' Gifts and Traditions: "I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation. Please, you should never be ashamed of your traditions."
3. *Sexual abuse of children:
- It is a serious matter that weighs heavily on the Pope and hence should weigh heavily on all Catholics: "I hold the stories and the suffering and the stories of children who were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart...I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps."
- Truth and not Secrecy is the Priority: "The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret." The Pope said that he "deeply regret(s) that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children" and he denounced the fact that some people or their families are met with criticism or skepticism when they decide to report the abuse and are "not heard or believed."
- Speaking up takes courage and should be cherished and encouraged: "We humbly owe each one of you and your families our gratitude for your immense courage to shine the light of Christ on the evil of the sexual abuse of children."
* It is worth noting that his words on sexual abuse were criticized in light of their contradiction with certain articles of Canon Law. Still, his words are noteworthy and may signal a desire to combat sexual abuse of children more seriously in years to come.