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Rep. John Lewis on Pope Francis' Address to Congress

September 25, 2015
Press Release

"The Holy Father, Pope Francis of the Holy See, delivered a powerful message to Congress and the American people today.  In his humble, gentle way he used his authority to encourage us all to simply do what is right to protect the dignity of all humankind.  

"He said, 'All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity....Politics is...an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good...'

"These words and ideas speak to the center of our work as members of Congress and to the importance and vitality of our roles as individual citizens. Pope Francis delivered one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard in all my years in Congress.  I loved the way he used the life and work of President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton as the basis of his lesson for all of us.

"Though I was reluctant to openly shed tears, I cried within to hear his words.  I was deeply moved to realize I had a connection in some way with some of those he mentioned. When TIME magazine, years ago, did a story on "living saints," they actually included Dorothy Day and I in the story.  Also Thomas Merton was a monk whose words I studied during non-violence training in the Civil Rights Movement. It was amazing that the Pope mentioned the Selma-to-Montgomery march because during the first attempt to march to Montgomery, now known as Bloody Sunday, I carried one of Thomas Merton's books in my backpack.

"Pope Francis spoke to the heart and soul of Congress and America.  It is my hope and prayer that members of Congress will heed his simple call to respect the dignity and divinity of every human being then we would be better servants of the American people, this would be a better country, and a better world."