Pope Francis has urged Congress to follow the "Golden Rule" in dealing with immigration and the refugee crisis around the world and challenged the United States to recognize the importance and beauty of a traditional family structure.
"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," the pontiff said during a historical first-ever address to a joint meeting of Congress. "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."
Francis also encouraged Congress to reject a "mindset of hostility" and to see immigrants as individuals, listening to their stories and responding in compassionate ways.
"Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions," he said. "On this continent, too, 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. Is this not what we want for our own children?"
Francis challenged politicians to look to the biblical character of Moses as an example of how they should conduct their leadership.
"Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation," he said. "On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being.
He continued, "Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face."
Francis' message also include a defense of religious liberty and the traditional family at a time when the Supreme Court has just legalized same-sex marriage across the United States.
"I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened perhaps as never before, from within and without," he said. "Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life."
The pope's remarks came just ahead of his participation in the Catholic World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, a week-long international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration of the family.
While the World Meeting of Families will be held September 22-25, Francis is expected to only participate in the closing events, held on September 26-27. Such events include the Festival of Families, an "intercultural celebration of family life around the world" on Saturday, and a Papal Mass on Sunday.
WCF Managing Director, Larry Jacobs, commented, "We welcome Pope Francis's message to America. The Pope has consistently emphasized that we can't separate and solve the cultural causes of divorce, poverty, abortion, disease, sex-trafficking, starvation, pollution, pornography, consumerism, co-habitation, euthanasia and greed, without first respecting the dignity and sanctity of the natural family and the life of every person from conception to natural death. In other words, we can't systematically address poverty and climate change without reversing the moral and cultural damage of the "sexual revolution. This is authentic human rights and social justice, rightly understood."
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren will be the final speaker at the 8th annual event, which organizers say will be attended by up to two million people. Francis' attendance of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia will culminate his historic week-long trip to the United States.