Rep. Dan Donovan: Pope Francis' speech to Congress was about humanity
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Having witnessed Pope Francis speak to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Rep. Daniel Donovan said, "It was an amazing event to experience live."
His holiness spoke about political and social issues, including immigration, the Syrian refugee crisis, environmental concerns, poverty, eroding family structures, terrorism and the death penalty.
"It wasn't political, it wasn't religious, it was about humanity," said Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn), a Catholic.
The pope called for "fraternity and solidarity" for the common good, a "spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States" as we pool our resource and talents "with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience."
He applied that to immigration and in welcoming Syrian refugees, saying Americans aren't fearful of foreigners because many were foreigners at some point.
"We must not be taken aback by the numbers but we must view them as persons", the Pope said, seeing their faces and listening to their stories and respond "in a way that is human."
"Let us remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," his holiness said, interrupted by applause and a standing ovation.
Donovan noted the photo of a Syrian child's body washed up on a shore, photos of refugees begging to be allowed to cross over borders into safety.
"These are the faces that the pope was speaking about. And, yes, they're an astronomical number and we have to figure out a way to deal with them," he said.
At the same time, it's a national security issue because ISIS may infiltrate the masses, according to President Obama's National Intelligence director, James R. Clapper.
The pope said it's our responsibility "to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," advocating to abolish the death penalty, adding, "Every life is sacred."
The pontiff reminded Congress to care for those stuck in a cycle of poverty — "They too need to be given hope."
Donovan said Congress' role is "to help those who are less fortunate than us get on their feet," become less dependent on government and let them live free from government interference.
The pope turned to caring for the Earth — "our common home" — on environmental issues, he said, "I'm convinced that we can make a difference, I'm sure."
Donovan was inspired by the pope's message that "we could create opportunities for everyone" — poor, immigrant, refugee, young, elderly.
"It was just remarkable to see him, to listen to him," Donovan said. "I think his message was astounding, he's a man of compassion, he's a man of peace, he's a man of forgiveness, he's a man of justice."
He had recently expressed his hope that Pope Francis would comment on ISIS killing Christians for their religion.
While the pope did speak about terrorism briefly, Donovan said his speech to Congress wasn't the forum to expect him to go into detail.
"The pope certainly recognizes the oppression and persecution of Christians in the Middle East," Donovan said. "In general he spoke about that issue and I'm hoping he addresses it head-on at some point."