Local Catholic Charities leader, politicians react to pope’s congressional address

| Bridget Ryder | September 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

As a guest of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Tim Marx, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was seated in the gallery of the Capitol Sept. 24 to hear Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress. Marx said he’s bringing inspiration and affirmation from the pontiff home to Minnesota.

Tim Marx

Tim Marx

“The pope’s message is what Catholic Charities does and will continue to do,” Marx said of its mission to help the poor, resettle refugees and advocate for immigrants. Marx also witnessed the effect the pope’s address had on Rep. John Lewis, who was a close collaborator of Martin Luther King Jr., one of four Americans the pope referenced in his address.

“When he mentioned Martin Luther King, I was looking right down on Congressman John Lewis. He was visually moved by it, as were those around him,” Marx said, adding that people reached over to give Lewis a hug or a pat on the back.

“It’s not often the Holy Father calls out something you were personally involved in that is a marker for social justice,” he said.

Marx said the Holy Father’s use of four Americans — Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. — as examples showed the pope had worked hard to make his address relevant to his audience.

“His message [and] the way it was delivered should make his message come alive for Americans and Minnesotans in a way that it hadn’t before. It was so joyful and a call to action,” he said.

Marx also attended the official White House greeting ceremony and the Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception as a member of Catholic Charities.

Senator heard ‘spiritual, captivating’ message

Sen. Klobuchar spent a few minutes up close and personal with Pope Francis on the morning of Sept. 24 when he arrived at the Capitol building to address Congress.

“It was an amazing experience,” Klobuchar said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before in Congress. It was amazing to see these senators known to have big egos nervous waiting for the pope.”

Klobuchar was part of a special greeting committee that met the Holy Father before he entered the chamber of the House of Representatives to deliver his address. Pope Francis gave the group a blessing before they accompanied him into the room. Klobuchar was struck by his kindness and gentleness throughout the morning.

“We’re used to political leaders with booming voices, but you had to strain to hear him,” she said.

But she didn’t miss the message that his soft voice delivered.

“He didn’t spell out exact policy changes, but gave us a call to action,” she said.

Instead of delivering a list of policies for the legislators to adopt, which “wouldn’t have worked with this crowd, anyway,” Klobuchar added, he gave Congress “a spiritual message that was captivating.”

“The United States is a great country with an obligation to work for social justice,” Klobuchar summarized the pope’s address.

She appreciated the historical rooting the Holy Father gave his message to work for the common good by referencing Americans such as Dorothy Day. Klobuchar said Congress will have a chance to put the message into action by including support for the poor and vulnerable into the new budget the legislators are hashing out for the coming fiscal year. She was also pleasantly surprised that Pope Francis specifically mentioned the global refugee crisis, since she has been working to increase the number of Syrian refugees the United States accepts.

She hopes the pope’s address will be a rallying point for compromise and cooperation among legislators. Looking back over the text of the talk, the pope’s definition of a good politician, which he said is “one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism,” stood out to her.

“I like that he said pragmatism because we need it,” she said. “I thought he was pretty specific to working together.”

As the debate over funding for Planned Parenthood and the new budget continues, Klobuchar sees it as a chance for the legislators to take the pope’s words to heart and “listen to the other side.” She voted in August to fund Planned Parenthood and said her stance had not changed. She hopes the issue will not cause another government shutdown.

“We have to keep the government running because [a shutdown] will hurt the poor and that would undermine the other half of the pope’s message,” she said.

However, Pope Francis’ exit was the defining moment for her. She said as he was walking out, a woman who was holding a baby couldn’t stop crying because she was so moved by the pope’s presence. Security guards reached into the crowd and passed the baby to the pope, who blessed him.

“He could have spent this time with politicians, but no matter what, he just wanted to bless this woman’s baby,” she said.

Other reactions issued in statements from Minnesota representatives include:

  • From Rep. Tom Emmer, R – a Catholic
    “What an honor! What a celebration of America and what a celebration of faith. The Pope’s message of America’s importance to the world and our obligation to lead is inspiring. This should encourage Americans – regardless of political perspective or religious beliefs – to move the country forward and to lead the world to a place of peace and prosperity where future generations can achieve their dreams.”
  • From Rep. Rick Nolan, D – a Catholic
    “Pope Francis spoke with eloquence and wisdom today.  He brought the great message of joy, forgiveness and inclusivity and he spoke about the need to show gratitude and give back, and that the chief aim of all politics is, as Lincoln said, to work for the common good.
    He spoke of the greatness of our nation and called for a renewal of the spirit of cooperation here in Congress and across our land that has made us great. And in that vein, he warned against what he called “simplistic reductionism” – the human tendency to see everything in terms of black and white and good versus evil. The issues we face are complicated and we find solutions through open debate and respect for each other’s beliefs and convictions.
    He paid particular homage to our seniors as a great natural resource of wisdom and experience. He reminded us of the need to constantly learn from and utilize that wisdom and knowledge to pay our success forward for future generations.
    And he urged our young people to keep working to realize their great and noble aspirations and not repeat or be discouraged by the mistakes of their ancestors.
    He tipped his hat to our great middle class – the people who go to work every day, play by the rules and support their families.
    And finally, he pleaded with us to reject the tactics of tyrants lest we take their place, and instead spread “hope and healing” and “peace and justice” in the world.  We do so by continuing the fight for civil rights, economic justice and food policies that feed the hungry. We do that by creating good jobs and protecting our planet – our common home. And most of all by abiding by the Golden Rule – do unto others as we would have others do unto us.”

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Category: Pope in U.S.