Full Text Political Transcripts February 2, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-2-17

Washington Hilton

9:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mark.  So nice.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to be here this morning.  And so many faith leaders — very, very important people to me — from across our magnificent nation, and so many leaders from all across the globe.

Today we continue a tradition begun by President Eisenhower some 64 years ago.  This gathering is a testament to the power of faith, and is one of the great customs of our nation, and I hope to be here seven more times with you.  (Laughter and applause.)

I want very much to thank our co-chairs, Senator Bowzman and Senator Coons, and all of the congressional leadership — they’re all over the place.  We have a lot of very distinguished guests.

And we have one guest who was just sworn in last night — Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State.  (Applause.)  Going to do a great job.  Some people didn’t like Rex because he actually got along with leaders of the world.  I said, no, you have to understand, that’s a good thing.  (Laughter.)  That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.  He’s respected all over the world, and I think he’s going to go down as one of our great, great secretaries.  We appreciate it.  Thank you, thank you, Rex.  (Applause.)

Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black for his moving words.  And I don’t know, Chaplain, whether or not that’s an appointed position.  Is that an appointed position?  I don’t even know if you’re a Democrat or if you’re a Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year — the hell with it.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I think it’s not even my appointment, it’s the Senate’s appointment, but we’ll talk to them.  Your son is here.  Your job is very, very secure, okay?  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Barry.  Appreciate it very much.

I also want to thank my great friends, though, Roma.  Where’s Roma?  Beautiful Roma Downey.  The voice of an angel.  She’s got the voice — every time I hear it, that voice is so beautiful.  Everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he’s a special, special friend, Mark Burnett — for the wonderful introduction.  So true.  So true.  I said to the agent, I’m sorry.  The only thing more — I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don’t want to do it, it’ll never work, it’ll never, ever work.  You don’t want to do it.  I said, listen — but I really fired him after it became the number-one show.  It became so successful, and he wanted a commission, and he didn’t want to do it.  That’s what I really said.  (Laughter.)

But we had tremendous success on “The Apprentice.”  And when I ran for President, I had to leave the show.  That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it.  And they hired a big, big movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger -– to take my place.  And we know how that turned out.  (Laughter.)  The ratings went right down the tubes.  It’s been a total disaster.  And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again.  And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay?  (Laughter.)

But we’ve had an amazing life together, the last 14, 15 years.  And an outstanding man, and thank you very much for introducing me.  Appreciate it.  It’s a great honor.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank my dear friend, Vice President Mike Pence, who has been incredible.  (Applause.)  And incredible wife, Karen.  And every time I was in a little trouble with something, where they were questioning me, they’d say, but he picked Mike Pence — (laughter) — so he has to know what he’s doing.  And it’s true, he’s been — you know, on the scale of 0 to 10, I rate him a 12, okay?  So I want to thank you.  Thank you very much.  Apprentice it.  (Applause.)

But most importantly today, I want to thank the American people.  Your faith and prayers have sustained me and inspired me through some very, very tough times.  All around America, I have met amazing people whose words of worship and encouragement have been a constant source of strength.  What I hear most often as I travel the country are five words that never, ever fail to touch my heart.  That’s:  “I am praying for you.”  I hear it so often — “I am praying for you, Mr. President.”  (Applause.)

No one has inspired me more in my travels than the families of the United States military, men and women who have put their lives on the line every day for their country and their countrymen.  I just came back yesterday from Dover Air Force Base to join the family of Chief William “Ryan” Owens, as America’s fallen hero was returned home.  Very, very sad, but very, very beautiful.  Very, very beautiful.  His family was there.  Incredible family, loved him so much.  So devastated — he was so devastated.  But the ceremony was amazing.  He died in defense of our nation.  He gave his life in defense of our people.  Our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting.

“Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  From generation to generation, their vigilance has kept our liberty alive.  Our freedom is won by their sacrifice, and our security has been earned with their sweat and blood and tears.  God has blessed this land to give us such incredible heroes and patriots.  They are very, very special, and we are going to take care of them.  (Applause.)

Our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all together as one.  America is a nation of believers.  In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this — that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.  I will tell you that.  And I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success — the most material success.  Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people.  And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families, they have great faith.  They don’t have money — at least not nearly to the extent — and they’re happy.  Those to me are the successful people, I have to tell you.  (Applause.)

I was blessed to be raised in a churched home.  My mother and father taught me that to whom much is given much is expected.  I was sworn in on the very bible from which my mother would teach us as young children.  And that faith lives on in my heart every single day.

The people in this room come from many, many backgrounds.  You represent so many religions and so many views.  But we are all united by our faith in our Creator and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in His eyes.  We are not just flesh and bone and blood.  We are human beings, with souls.  Our Republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God.  (Applause.)

It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty.”  Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.  That is why I will get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.  I will do that — remember.  (Applause.)

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways.  And I’ve never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of President.  The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out.  Okay?  That’s what I do.  I fix things.  We’re going to straighten it out.  (Applause.)  Believe me.  When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it.  Just don’t worry about it.  (Laughter.)  They’re tough.  We have to be tough.  It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks.  We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually.  It’s not going to happen anymore.  It’s not going to happen anymore.

We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion.  Acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities.  Horrors on a scale that defy description.  Terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom.  It must be stopped, and it will be stopped.  It may not be pretty for a little while.  It will be stopped.  (Applause.)

We have seen — and, by the way, General, as you know, James “Mad Dog” — I shouldn’t say it in this room — Mattis.  Now, there’s a reason they call him “Mad Dog Mattis” — he never lost a battle.  Always wins them and always wins them fast.  He’s our new Secretary of Defense who will be working with Rex.  He’s right now in South Korea, going to Japan, going to some other spots.  And I’ll tell you what, I’ve gotten to know him really well.  He’s the real deal.  We have somebody who’s the real deal working for us, and that’s what we need.  So, you watch.  You just watch.  (Applause.)  Things will be different.

We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers.  We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people.  We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads.  Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that.  We haven’t seen that, the cutting off of heads.  Now they cut off their heads, they drown people in steel cages.  Haven’t seen this — I haven’t seen this.  Nobody has seen this for many, many years.

All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence.  All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously, if we have to.  So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land.  America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure.  We have to feel safe and secure.

In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal.  Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world.  But these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear.  We need security.  There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle.  Not right.  We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation.  You look all over the world and you see what’s happening.

So in the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.  We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values — not to hate us and to hate our values.  We will be a safe country.  We will be a free country.  And we will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence.  America will flourish as long as our liberty and, in particular, our religious liberty is allowed to flourish.  (Applause.)

America will succeed as long as our most vulnerable citizens — and we have some that are so vulnerable — have a path to success.  And America will thrive as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God.  (Applause.)

That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas, and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land.  It’s that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains, and the young people all across America to chase their dreams.  They are chasing their dreams.  We are going to bring those dreams back.  As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone.  Whether it’s the soldier on the night watch or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength and comfort.

We need to carry on and to keep carrying on.  For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public according to his will.  That’s why — (applause) — thank you.  That’s why President Eisenhower and Senator Carlson had the wisdom to gather together 64 years ago to begin this truly great tradition.  But that’s not all they did together.  Let me tell you the rest of the story.  Just one year later, Senator Carlson was among the members of Congress to send to the President’s desk a joint resolution that added “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  Because that’s what we are and that is what we will always be, and that is what our people want:  one beautiful nation, under God.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
9:30 A.M. EST

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Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Pope Francis’s Speech to the UN General Assembly Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS:

Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly

Source: WaPo, 9-25-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, delivered Friday in New York. 

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you.

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Pope Francis’ Address to Congress Transcript

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Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress

Source: WaPo, 9-24-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s address to a joint meeting of Congress, delivered Thursday in Washington. (Follow our liveblog for the latest)

Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

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. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. 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.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

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. 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? 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. 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” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us 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 Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful

source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. 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.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems

are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Statement upon meeting Pope Francis before his address to Congress

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WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today welcomed Pope Francis to the United States Capitol, where he became the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress.  After the Pope’s visit, Boehner issued the following statement:

“What a day.  What a moment for our country.  I’m so proud that so many came to greet the Pope here at our Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of democracy.  The Holy Father’s visit is surely a blessing for all of us.  With great blessings, of course, come great responsibility.  Let us all go forth with gratitude and reflect on how we can better serve one another.  Let us all go forth and live up to the words, God bless America.”

Full Text Political Transcripts September 23, 2015: Pope Francis Addresses President Barack Obama And Guests At White House Transcript

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Pope Francis Addresses President Obama And Guests At White House (Full Transcript)

Source: Huffington Post, 9-23-15

Mr. President,

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

Full Text Political Transcripts September 22, 2015: President Barack Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis’ Remarks at Arrival Ceremony in Washington for US Trip Transcript

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Remarks by President Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis at Arrival Ceremony

Source: WH, 9-22-15

South Lawn

9:32 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  What a beautiful day the Lord has made.  Holy Father, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)  I should explain that our backyard is not typically this crowded — (laughter) — but the size and spirit of today’s gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics.  (Applause.)  It reflects, as well, the way that your message of love and hope has inspired so many people across our nation and around the world.  So on behalf of the American people, it is my great honor and privilege to welcome you to the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Today, we mark many firsts.  Your Holiness, you have been celebrated as the first Pope from the Americas.  (Applause.) This is your first visit to the United States.  (Applause.)  And you are also the first pontiff to share an encyclical through a Twitter account.  (Laughter.)

Holy Father, your visit not only allows us, in some small way, to reciprocate the extraordinary hospitality that you extended to me at the Vatican last year.  It also reveals how much all Americans, from every background and every faith, value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America.  (Applause.)  From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic Church in Chicago, to my travels as President, I’ve seen firsthand how, every single day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns, laity are feeding the hungry, healing the sick, sheltering the homeless, educating our children, and fortifying the faith that sustains so many.

And what is true in America is true around the world.  From the busy streets of Buenos Aires to the remote villages in Kenya, Catholic organizations serve the poor, minister to prisoners, build schools, build homes, operate orphanages and hospitals.  And just as the Church has stood with those struggling to break the chains of poverty, the Church so often has given voice and hope to those seeking to break the chains of violence and oppression.

And yet, I believe the excitement around your visit, Holy Father, must be attributed not only to your role as Pope, but to your unique qualities as a person.  (Applause.)  In your humility, your embrace of simplicity, in the gentleness of your words and the generosity of your spirit, we see a living example of Jesus’ teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds.  (Applause.)

You call on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to put the “least of these” at the center of our concerns.  You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and our measure as a society, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized — (applause) — to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity –- because we are all made in the image of God.  (Applause.)

You remind us that “the Lord’s most powerful message” is mercy.  And that means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart –- (applause) — from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life.  (Applause.)  It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, to those who have suffered, and those who have caused suffering and seek redemption.  You remind us of the costs of war, particularly on the powerless and defenseless, and urge us toward the imperative of peace.  (Applause.)

Holy Father, we are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people — (applause) — which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere, and a better life for the Cuban people.  We thank you for your passionate voice against the deadly conflicts that ravage the lives of so many men, women and children, and your call for nations to resist the sirens of war and resolve disputes through diplomacy.

You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely.  (Applause.)  Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty.  It was the basis for so much of what brought us together.  And here in the United States, we cherish our religious liberty, but around the world, at this very moment, children of God, including Christians, are targeted and even killed because of their faith.  Believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship.  The faithful are imprisoned, and churches are destroyed.  So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and free from intimidation.  (Applause.)

And, Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us.  (Applause.)  We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to changing climate, and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.  (Applause.)

Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example.  And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency.  All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true, what we know to be right.  But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better.  You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free.  Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to “never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope.”

For that great gift of hope, Holy Father, we thank you, and welcome you, with joy and gratitude, to the United States of America.  (Applause.)

HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS:  Mr. President, I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of the all Americans.  As a son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.  (Applause.)

I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue in which I hope to listen to and share many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.  During my visit, I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles.  I will also travel to Philadelphia for the eighth World Meeting of Families to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this critical moment in the history of our civilization.  (Applause.)

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.  (Applause.)  With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty.  (Applause.)  That freedom reminds one of America’s most precious possessions.  And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.  (Applause.)

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution.  (Applause.)  Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation.  (Applause.)  When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment of history.  We still have time to make the change needed to bring about a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.  (Applause.)

Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them.  Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded, which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities, our societies.  To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note, and now is the time to honor it.  (Applause.)
We know by faith that the Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity has the ability to work together in building our common home.  As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

Mr. President, the efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom.

I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development — (applause) — so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
9:53 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 22, 2015: Pope Francis US Trip Schedule

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Schedule: 2015 Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to the United States of America

Source: US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Here is the schedule for Pope Francis’ September 2015 Apostolic Journey to the United States of America as released by the Vatican on June 30, 2015.  All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.

Tuesday, September 22 (Washington, DC)

  • 4:00 p.m.    Arrival from Cuba at Joint Base Andrews

Wednesday, September 23 (Washington, DC)

  • 9:15  a.m.  Welcome ceremony and meeting with President Obama at the White House
  • 11:00 a.m.  Papal Parade along the Ellipse and the National Mall (time approximate)
  • 11:30 a.m. Midday Prayer with the bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral
  • 4:15  p.m.  Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Thursday, September 24 (Washington, DC, New York City)

  • 9:20  a.m.  Address to Joint Meeting of the United States Congress
  • 11:15 a.m. Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
  • 4:00 p.m.   Depart from Joint Base Andrews
  • 5:00 p.m.   Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 6:45 p.m.   Evening Prayer (Vespers) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Friday, September 25 (New York City)

  • 8:30  a.m. Visit to the United Nations and Address to the United Nations General Assembly
  • 11:30 a.m. Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center
  • 4:00  p.m.  Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem
  • 5:00  p.m.   Procession through Central Park (time approximate)
  • 6:00  p.m.  Mass at Madison Square Garden

Saturday, September 26 (New York City, Philadelphia)

  • 8:40  a.m.  Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 9:30  a.m.  Arrival at Atlantic Aviation, Philadelphia
  • 10:30 a.m. Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia
  • 4:45  p.m.  Visit to Independence Mall
  • 7:30  p.m.  Visit to the Festival of Families Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Sunday, September 27 (Philadelphia)

  • 9:15   a.m.  Meeting with bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
  • 11:00  a.m. Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
  • 4:00  p.m.   Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • 7:00   p.m.  Visit with organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation
  • 8:00   p.m.  Departure for Rome

Political Musings February 5, 2015: Boehner announces Pope Francis accepts historic invitation will address Congress

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Boehner announces Pope Francis accepts historic invitation will address Congress

By Bonnie K. Goodman

One upcoming joint address to Congress has bipartisanship support; Pope Francis has accepted Speaker of the House John Boehner’s, R-OH invitation and will become the first pontiff to address Congress on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Boehner announced…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 5, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH,  2-5-15

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:13 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, good morning.  Giving all praise and honor to God.  It is wonderful to be back with you here.  I want to thank our co-chairs, Bob and Roger.  These two don’t always agree in the Senate, but in coming together and uniting us all in prayer, they embody the spirit of our gathering today.

I also want to thank everybody who helped organize this breakfast.  It’s wonderful to see so many friends and faith leaders and dignitaries.  And Michelle and I are truly honored to be joining you here today.

I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.  (Applause.)  I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today.  (Applause.)

There aren’t that many occasions that bring His Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR.  (Laughter.)  This may be the first.  (Laughter.)  But God works in mysterious ways.  (Laughter.)   And so I want to thank Darrell for that wonderful presentation.  Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt.  (Laughter.)  I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives — Jesus, take the wheel.  (Laughter.) Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that.  (Laughter.)

He and I obviously share something in having married up.  And we are so grateful to Stevie for the incredible work that they’ve done together to build a ministry where the fastest drivers can slow down a little bit, and spend some time in prayer and reflection and thanks.  And we certainly want to wish Darrell a happy birthday.  (Applause.)  Happy birthday.

I will note, though, Darrell, when you were reading that list of things folks were saying about you, I was thinking, well, you’re a piker.  I mean, that — (laughter.)  I mean, if you really want a list, come talk to me.  (Laughter.)  Because that ain’t nothing.  (Laughter.)  That’s the best they can do in NASCAR?  (Laughter.)

Slowing down and pausing for fellowship and prayer — that’s what this breakfast is about.  I think it’s fair to say Washington moves a lot slower than NASCAR.  Certainly my agenda does sometimes.  (Laughter.)  But still, it’s easier to get caught up in the rush of our lives, and in the political back-and-forth that can take over this city.  We get sidetracked with distractions, large and small.  We can’t go 10 minutes without checking our smartphones — and for my staff, that’s every 10 seconds.  And so for 63 years, this prayer tradition has brought us together, giving us the opportunity to come together in humility before the Almighty and to be reminded of what it is that we share as children of God.

And certainly for me, this is always a chance to reflect on my own faith journey.  Many times as President, I’ve been reminded of a line of prayer that Eleanor Roosevelt was fond of. She said, “Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.”  Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.  I’ve wondered at times if maybe God was answering that prayer a little too literally.  But no matter the challenge, He has been there for all of us.  He’s certainly strengthened me “with the power through his Spirit,” as I’ve sought His guidance not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.

Now, over the last few months, we’ve seen a number of challenges — certainly over the last six years.  But part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.

As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife.  We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done.  We see faith driving us to do right.

But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.  From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.  We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism  — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion.  There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.  In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.  And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.

And, first, we should start with some basic humility.  I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.

Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth — our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments.  And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process.  And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty.  No God condones terror.  No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.

And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends.  And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.

There’s wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility.  They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.

But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment.  And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults — (applause) — and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks.  Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech.  Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.

So humility I think is needed.  And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments.  Between church and between state.  The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world — far more religious than most Western developed countries.  And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state.  Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all.  And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion — so that when you listen to Darrell talk about his faith journey you know it’s real.  You know he’s not saying it because it helps him advance, or because somebody told him to.  It’s from the heart.

That’s not the case in theocracies that restrict people’s choice of faith.  It’s not the case in authoritarian governments that elevate an individual leader or a political party above the people, or in some cases, above the concept of God Himself.  So the freedom of religion is a value we will continue to protect here at home and stand up for around the world, and is one that we guard vigilantly here in the United States.

Last year, we joined together to pray for the release of Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, held in North Korea for two years.  And today, we give thanks that Kenneth is finally back where he belongs — home, with his family.  (Applause.)

Last year, we prayed together for Pastor Saeed Abedini, detained in Iran since 2012.  And I was recently in Boise, Idaho, and had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Abedini’s beautiful wife and wonderful children and to convey to them that our country has not forgotten brother Saeed and that we’re doing everything we can to bring him home.  (Applause.)  And then, I received an extraordinary letter from Pastor Abedini.  And in it, he describes his captivity, and expressed his gratitude for my visit with his family, and thanked us all for standing in solidarity with him during his captivity.

And Pastor Abedini wrote, “Nothing is more valuable to the Body of Christ than to see how the Lord is in control, and moves ahead of countries and leadership through united prayer.”  And he closed his letter by describing himself as “prisoner for Christ, who is proud to be part of this great nation of the United States of America that cares for religious freedom around the world.”  (Applause.)

We’re going to keep up this work — for Pastor Abedini and all those around the world who are unjustly held or persecuted because of their faith.   And we’re grateful to our new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein — who has hit the ground running, and is heading to Iraq in a few days to help religious communities there address some of those challenges.  Where’s David?  I know he’s here somewhere.  Thank you, David, for the great work you’re doing.  (Applause.)

Humility; a suspicion of government getting between us and our faiths, or trying to dictate our faiths, or elevate one faith over another.  And, finally, let’s remember that if there is one law that we can all be most certain of that seems to bind people of all faiths, and people who are still finding their way towards faith but have a sense of ethics and morality in them — that one law, that Golden Rule that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated.  The Torah says “Love thy neighbor as yourself.”  In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”  The Holy Bible tells us to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Put on love.

Whatever our beliefs, whatever our traditions, we must seek to be instruments of peace, and bringing light where there is darkness, and sowing love where there is hatred.  And this is the loving message of His Holiness, Pope Francis.  And like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable; to walk with The Lord and ask “Who am I to judge?”  He challenges us to press on in what he calls our “march of living hope.”  And like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year.  (Applause.)

His Holiness expresses that basic law:  Treat thy neighbor as yourself.  The Dalai Lama — anybody who’s had an opportunity to be with him senses that same spirit.  Kent Brantly expresses that same spirit.  Kent was with Samaritan’s Purse, treating Ebola patients in Liberia, when he contracted the virus himself. And with world-class medical care and a deep reliance on faith — with God’s help, Kent survived.  (Applause.)

And then by donating his plasma, he helped others survive as well.  And he continues to advocate for a global response in West Africa, reminding us that “our efforts needs to be on loving the people there.”  And I could not have been prouder to welcome Kent and his wonderful wife Amber to the Oval Office.  We are blessed to have him here today — because he reminds us of what it means to really “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Not just words, but deeds.

Each of us has a role in fulfilling our common, greater purpose — not merely to seek high position, but to plumb greater depths so that we may find the strength to love more fully.  And this is perhaps our greatest challenge — to see our own reflection in each other; to be our brother’s keepers and sister’s keepers, and to keep faith with one another.  As children of God, let’s make that our work, together.

As children of God, let’s work to end injustice — injustice of poverty and hunger.  No one should ever suffer from such want amidst such plenty.  As children of God, let’s work to eliminate the scourge of homelessness, because, as Sister Mary says, “None of us are home until all of us are home.”  None of us are home until all of us are home.

As children of God, let’s stand up for the dignity and value of every woman, and man, and child, because we are all equal in His eyes, and work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and “set the oppressed free.”  (Applause.)

If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose.  We can never fully fathom His amazing grace.  “We see through a glass, darkly” — grappling with the expanse of His awesome love.  But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required:  To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

I pray that we will.  And as we journey together on this “march of living hope,” I pray that, in His name, we will run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint, and we’ll heed those words and “put on love.”

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He bless this precious country that we love.

Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

END
9:37 A.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 6, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Praises Freedom of Religion at the National Prayer Breakfast

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National Prayer BreakfastPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This morning, the President, the First Lady, and the Vice President attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The annual event brings together legislators, officials, and clergy from all faiths and political ideologies….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-6-14 

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast
February 06, 2014 6:57 PM

President Obama Speaks at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Please, everyone have a seat. Giving all praise and honor to God, who brought us here this morning.

Thank you so much for our two outstanding co-chairs, Louie and Jan.  And I have to say, I would have enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at the two of these folks getting this breakfast organized this morning.  (Laughter.)  But there does seem to be that sibling thing a little bit, Louie.  (Laughter.)  They love each other, but they’ve got to go at each other a little bit.  I, by the way, have always found Louie to be unbelievably gracious every time I’ve seen him.  Now, I don’t watch TV, I’ve got to admit.  (Laughter.)  But he is a good man and a great storyteller, and Janice was just reminding me the first time we saw each other was at one of my first events when I first ran for office.

It’s wonderful to see all of the dignitaries and friends who are here today.  To the Presidents, and Prime Ministers, the leaders of business and the nonprofit community; to my incredible friend and Vice President, Joe Biden; to my Cabinet members who are here and members of the administration who do such great work every single day; to my fellow Hawaiian, it is wonderful to see you.  I should tell you that my surfing is not that good.  (Laughter.)  I just want to be clear.  But my bodysurfing is pretty good.

SENATOR HIRONO:  Bodysurfing is fun.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It is.  (Laughter.)  And to Raj Shah, who is just such an incredible young leader and is out there every single day, I could not be more proud of his outstanding leadership at USAID.  And it’s a good reminder — (applause) — it’s a good reminder of the dedicated public servants that I have the chance to interact with every single day.  And they do great work, don’t always get a lot of credit, sometimes get subject to the sort of criticism that you do when you’re in public life, but Raj is single-minded in terms of trying to help as many people as possible all around the world and is an extraordinary representative for our country.  So I’m very, very proud of him — although he does always make me feel like an underachiever whenever I listen to him.  (Laughter.)  I’m thinking, I should have been working harder and not slouching.  (Laughter.)

Dale Jones and everyone else who worked on this breakfast this morning, thank you, and obviously I’m thrilled to be joined by my extraordinary wife and she does a great job every single day keeping me in line.  (Applause.)

Just two other thank-yous.  To our men and women in uniform all around the world, we pray for them.  (Applause.)  Many of them doing such great work to keep us safe.  And then there is one colleague of mine who is missing today.  A great friend of mine who I came into the Senate with, Senator Tom Coburn.  Tom is going through some tough times right now but I love him dearly even though we’re from different parties.  He’s a little closer to Louie’s political perspective than mine but he is a good man and I’m keeping him and his family in my prayers all the time.  So just a shout-out to my good friend, Tom Coburn.  (Applause.)

So each time we gather, it’s a chance to set aside the rush of our daily lives; to pause with humility before an Almighty God; to seek His grace; and, mindful of our own imperfections, to remember the admonition from the Book of Romans, which is especially fitting for those of us in Washington:  “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”

So here we put aside labels of party and ideology, and recall what we are first:  all children of a loving God; brothers and sisters called to make His work our own.  But in this work, as Lincoln said, our concern should not be whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side.

And here we give thanks for His guidance in our own individual faith journeys.  In my life, He directed my path to Chicago and my work with churches who were intent on breaking the cycle of poverty in hard-hit communities there.  And I’m grateful not only because I was broke and the church fed me, but because it led to everything else.  It led me to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  It led me to Michelle — the love of my life — and it blessed us with two extraordinary daughters.  It led me to public service.  And the longer I serve, especially in moments of trial or doubt, the more thankful I am of God’s guiding hand.

Now, here, as Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion.  And, yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other way, too — because religion strengthens America.  Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to civil rights, workers’ rights.

So many of you carry on this good work today — for the child who deserves a school worthy of his dreams; for the parents working overtime to pull themselves out of poverty; for the immigrants who want to step out of the shadows and become a full member of our American family; for the young girl who prays for rescue from the modern slavery of human trafficking, an outrage that we must all join together to end.

Through our Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, led by Melissa Rogers, we’re proud to work with you on this and many other issues.  And I invite you to join us in a new initiative that I announced in my State of the Union address — an effort to help more young men of color overcome the odds, because so many boys in this country need that mentor to help them become a man and a good father.

I’ve felt the love that faith can instill in our lives during my visits to the Holy Land and Jerusalem — sacred to Jews and Christians and Muslims.  I’ve felt it in houses of worship — whether paying my respects at the tomb of Archbishop Romero in San Salvador, or visiting a synagogue on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or a Buddhist temple in Bangkok.  And I’ve felt the compassion of so many faith leaders around the world, and I am especially looking forward to returning to the Vatican next month to meet His Holiness, Pope Francis, whose message about caring for the “least of these” is one that I hope all of us heed.  Like Matthew, he has answered the call of Jesus, who said “follow me,” and he inspires us with his words and deeds, his humility, his mercy and his missionary impulse to serve the cause of social justice.

Yet even as our faith sustains us, it’s also clear that around the world freedom of religion is under threat.  And that is what I want to reflect on this morning.  We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful.  We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love.  Old tensions are stoked, fueling conflicts along religious lines, as we’ve seen in the Central African Republic recently, even though to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God.  Extremists succumb to an ignorant nihilism that shows they don’t understand the faiths they claim to profess — for the killing of the innocent is never fulfilling God’s will; in fact, it’s the ultimate betrayal of God’s will.

Today, we profess the principles we know to be true.  We believe that each of us is “wonderfully made” in the image of God.  We, therefore, believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away.  And central to that dignity is freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear.

Our faith teaches us that in the face of suffering, we can’t stand idly by and that we must be that Good Samaritan.  In Isaiah, we’re told “to do right.  Seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.”  The Torah commands:  “Know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” The Koran instructs:  “Stand out firmly for justice.”   So history shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people — including the freedom of religion — are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful.  Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism.  So freedom of religion matters to our national security.  (Applause.)

As I’ve said before, there are times when we work with governments that don’t always meet our highest standards, but they’re working with us on core interests such as the security of the American people.  At the same time, we also deeply believe that it’s in our interest, even with our partners, sometimes with our friends, to stand up for universal human rights.  So promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.  And I’m proud that no nation on Earth does more to stand up for the freedom of religion around the world than the United States of America.  (Applause.)

It is not always comfortable to do, but it is right.  When I meet with Chinese leaders — and we do a lot of business with the Chinese, and that relationship is extraordinarily important not just to our two countries but to the world — but I stress that realizing China’s potential rests on upholding universal rights, including for Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists, and Uighur Muslims.  (Applause.)

When I meet with the President of Burma, a country that is trying to emerge out of a long darkness into the light of a representative government, I’ve said that Burma’s return to the international community depends on respecting basic freedoms, including for Christians and Muslims.  I’ve pledged our support to the people of Nigeria, who deserve to worship in their churches and mosques in peace, free from terror.  I’ve put the weight of my office behind the efforts to protect the people of Sudan and South Sudan, including religious minorities.

As we support Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in direct talks, we’ve made clear that lasting peace will require freedom of worship and access to holy sites for all faiths.  I want to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Kerry for his extraordinary passion and principled diplomacy that he’s brought to the cause of peace in the Middle East.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)

More broadly, I’ve made the case that no society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all its peoples, including religious minorities, whether they’re Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, or Baha’i in Iran, or Coptic Christians in Egypt.  And in Syria, it means ensuring a place for all people — Alawites and Sunni, Shia and Christian.

Going forward, we will keep standing for religious freedom around the world.  And that includes, by the way, opposing blasphemy and defamation of religion measures, which are promoted sometimes as an expression of religion, but, in fact, all too often can be used to suppress religious minorities.  (Applause.) We continue to stand for the rights of all people to practice their faiths in peace and in freedom.  And we will continue to stand against the ugly tide of anti-Semitism that rears it’s ugly head all too often.

I look forward to nominating our next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to help lead these efforts.  And we’re moving ahead with our new strategy to partner more closely with religious leaders and faith communities as we carry out our foreign policy.  And I want to thank Shaun Casey, from the Wesley Theological Seminary, for leading this work at the State Department.  Shaun I think is here today and we want to thank him for the outstanding work that he’s doing.  (Applause.) Thank you, Shaun.  (Applause.)

So around the world we’re elevating our engagement with faith leaders and making it a regular part of our diplomacy.  And today, I invite you to join us in focusing on several pressing challenges.  Let’s do more together to advance human rights, including religious freedom.  Let’s do more to promote the development that Raj describes — from ending extreme poverty to saving lives, from HIV/AIDS to combating climate change so that we can preserve God’s incredible creation.  On all these issues, faith leaders and faith organizations here in the United States and around the world are incredible partners, and we’re grateful to them.

And in contrast to those who wield religion to divide us, let’s do more to nurture the dialogue between faiths that can break cycles of conflict and build true peace, including in the Holy Land.

And finally, as we build the future we seek, let us never forget those who are persecuted today, among them Americans of faith.  We pray for Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who’s been held in North Korea for 15 months, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.  His family wants him home.  And the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release because Kenneth Bae deserves to be free.  (Applause.)

We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini.  He’s been held in Iran for more than 18 months, sentenced to eight years in prison on charges relating to his Christian beliefs.  And as we continue to work for his freedom, today, again, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho.  (Applause.)

And as we pray for all prisoners of conscience, whatever their faiths, wherever they’re held, let’s imagine what it must be like for them.  We may not know their names, but all around the world there are people who are waking up in cold cells, facing another day of confinement, another day of unspeakable treatment, simply because they are affirming God.  Despite all they’ve endured, despite all the awful punishments if caught, they will wait for that moment when the guards aren’t looking, and when they can close their eyes and bring their hands together and pray.

In those moments of peace, of grace, those moments when their faith is tested in ways that those of us who are more comfortable never experience; in those far-away cells, I believe their unbroken souls are made stronger.  And I hope that somehow they hear our prayers for them, that they know that, along with the spirit of God, they have our spirit with them as well, and that they are not alone.

Today we give humble thanks for the freedoms we cherish in this country.  And I join you in seeking God’s grace in all of our lives.  I pray that His wisdom will give us the capacity to do right and to seek justice, and defend the oppressed wherever they may dwell.

I want to thank all of you for the extraordinary privilege of being here this morning.  I want to ask you for your prayers as I continue in this awesome privilege and responsibility as President of the United States.  May God bless the United States of America, and God bless all those who seek peace and justice.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
9:51 A.M. EST

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