The plight of immigrants in the country and around the world is highlighted as the Holy See, known for his affinity for immigration issues, makes his first visit to the United States. In Washington D.C., Pope Francis spoke as an advocate for immigrants during his remarks to congressional lawmakers, a speech that was flanked by a heart-tugging public relations move designed to promote the cause of reform.
Focusing in on the Golden Rule in their approach to policy, Pope Francis told lawmakers in Washington D.C. in September that doing onto others as ye would have them do onto you is a notion that must go beyond U.S. borders.
“Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated,” the pope told the joint Congress. “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help other to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves,” he said “In a word, if we want security, let’s give security. If we want life, let us give life. If we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”
The Roman Catholic pontiff’s remarks to Congress, an unprecedented move by a sitting pope, were delivered in English, a language he learned only recently. The pope is himself the son of Italian immigrants to the South American country of Argentina. Francis is the first pope in the last millennium to not have been born in Europe.
“As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”
The impact of the pope’s words were augmented in a public relations move orchestrated by members of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, a Los Angeles-based immigration rights groups. During the pope’s procession down Constitution Avenue, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz wormed through security barriers to personally deliver her plea for support of her undocumented Mexican parents and others.
The young girl’s message consisted of a hand-written letter asking for the pontiff’s help for her and for all immigrant children. She also gave the pope a t-shirt in support of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA,) a program that’s currently on hold due to a federal lawsuit.
While delivery of the items looks to have done the trick in terms of publicity—plenty of mainstream news outlets picked up on the story—the message was one Pope Francis was already sharing with lawmakers.
‘Thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones in search of greater opportunities’ in in North America, he said. ‘Is this not what we want for our own children?’
‘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.’