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A Pope That Congress Should Listen To

Published by Huffington Post on Sun, 20 Sep 2015


When the Pope takes center stage in the heart of the nation's capital next Thursday, Americans will be enthralled. This Pope has done more to take on the establishment he leads than any other Vatican leader in our lifetime. And he has done so with grace, energy, and determination. Our political leaders will all be there watching him. They should learn from him too. When I served in the heart of a Catholic village in Costa Rica as an environmental education Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1990's, I was new to the power of the Pope. At that time, Pope John Paul II was in the Vatican, and he set an example for the people I lived with and grew to love. They looked to him for guidance and were infused with energy from their Catholic faith. Every morning I would hear the chants of the priests over the radio reciting morning prayers. I saw how the spirit of the village was infused with energy from their Catholic faith. It reminded me of my Jewish upbringing and the vitality that being Jewish has given me. It created a sense of community and shared values in the village, values that were inclusive and inspiring. These values that guided my village friends were in many ways a product of the community's faith. They believed in supporting each other, in knowing their neighbors, in ensuring that everyone around them was cared for. They knew the earth around them as well, understanding how the mountains, streams, and wildlife both sustained and enriched their world. That experience, where community values generated by faith in something bigger than oneself ruled the day, is what is creating such a buzz about the new Pope Francis. He exudes a devotion to the community and the natural world around us, and does so in a manner that is attractive to all of us. I see in him much of what I saw in that Central American village - a true desire to make the world a better place. Which brings us back to the current crop of American politicians that the Pope will soon be addressing. The Pope strikingly stands for solutions that our Congressional leaders - and us by extension - would benefit from embracing. Think climate change. Think women's rights. Think economic equality. Think social tolerance. Think immigration. Think Iran and Middle East peace.The Pope understands that: "Climate change is a global problem with grave implications..." and that "... there is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy." Our Congress should recognize this and follow this lead. He has also loudly proclaimed that women's rights and equality must be demanded, such as when he calls for: "... Equal compensation for equal work," proclaiming "... Why is it expected that women must earn less than men' No! They have the same rights. The disparity is a pure scandal." And on economic equality, he is clear: "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment." The same goes for his belief in social tolerance for the LGBT community. For example, he once said: "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person'' We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being." And on immigration he is clear: "A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization - all typical of a throwaway culture - towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world." Likewise, on issues of war and peace, such as Iran and the Middle East, he has no reservations: "May one cry rise up from every land, 'No' to war and violence and 'Yes' to dialogue and to peace. With war one always loses. The only way to win a war is never to wage it." "The Holy See values positively this (Iran nuclear) agreement because it considers that the way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation... The full implementation of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will ensure the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme under the NPT and will be a definitive step toward greater stability and security in the region." On all of these issues, the Pope stands for progress. These are values that not only he, but also the majority of Americans, believe in. But will our own Congress show enthusiasm for these views' Will they stand and applaud the community values that the Pope represents and calls for, or will they sit on their hands' Their actions will represent all of us to the world, and I pray that they do the right thing. But I'm not holding my breath. My guess is that the majority of the audience members will behave as they currently do when these issues are brought up: they will oppose them. My Costa Rican village friends will likely be watching the speech, and I'm sure that they will be saddened at such a response. And if this is what happens, we should make our voices heard, and demand that Congress truly listen to what the Pope has to say. It will be a clarifying moment indeed. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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