Pope Francis asks lawmakers to heal world's 'open wounds' in speech to Congress

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Pope Francis delivered a message of immigration and tolerance while speaking to a joint session of Congress Thursday, CNN reports, and challenged the lawmakers to heal the world's "open wounds" caused by hatred, greed, poverty and pollution, the New York Times says.

The pope has been greeted by throngs of people everywhere he's gone as he kicks off his three-city United States tour this week.

Hundreds of Minnesotans planned to travel to see the pope this week, including some who were special guests of the Minnesota congressional delegation at the joint session of Congress Thursday morning (see the list below).

It was the pope's first-ever address to Congress – for the full text, click here.

During the speech, he also called for the abolition of the death penalty, protection of ethnic and religious minorities, a fairer world economy, and the protection of the family, CNN notes.

"Pope Francis spoke with eloquence and wisdom today," said Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota's Eighth District in a news release. "He brought the great message of joy, forgiveness and inclusivity and he spoke about the need to show gratitude and give back, and that the chief aim of all politics is, as Lincoln said, to work for the common good."

Pope Francis is using his visit to the U.S. to stress the themes of his papacy – challenges like climate change, income inequality and the plight of immigrants, CNN says. His stance on these issues could "reverberate through Capitol Hill and the 2016 presidential race in the months to come," the publication notes.

The pope's first day in the US

During the pope's first day in the U.S., he was greeted by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony, which was followed by a parade. He also led a prayer service with U.S. bishops, and held the first-ever canonization Mass on U.S. soil, USA Today reports.

Pope Francis "waded quietly but forcefully into some of the most polarizing issues of American civic life," the New York Times says. He weighed in on climate change, calling for more protection for the environment, and commended President Barack Obama for his administration's efforts, the paper notes.

The pope, who is the first from Latin America, also expressed compassion for immigrants, the Washington Post reports, but also "echoed the traditionalists' call to respect 'religious liberty' in a time of social change," the publication says.

Pope Francis is also expected to meet with victims of clergy abuse during his visit, the Washington Post notes.

Minnesotans who attended the pope's speech

A handful of Minnesotans observed the pope's history-making visit to Congress Thursday. Each member of Minnesota's congressional delegation invited a guest, with many brining family members, nuns or pastors to Pope Francis' speech.

Here's a look at who was invited, according to The Catholic Spirit:

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s guest: Tim Marx, CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis
  • Sen. Al Franken: Jacquelyn Bernard of Pine City, the mother-in-law of one of his staff members
  • First District Rep. Tim Walz: Sister Alice Zachmann of Mankato. (MPR News did a profile on Zachmann.)
  • Second District Rep. John Kline: Two staff members who are Catholic.
  • Third District Rep. Erik Paulsen: A staff member from his DC office
  • Fourth District Rep. Betty McCollum: Father John Harper, pastor at Nativity of Our Lord parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (She won't be attending because she is in Japan for her son's wedding.)
  • Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison: Clida Ellison, his mother, a longtime Catholic. Ellison is the first Muslim Congressman.
  • Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer: St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler; Michael Hemesath, president of Saint John’s University; Mary Hinton, president of St. Ben’s University
  • Seventh District Rep. Colin Peterson: Rep. Dan Lipinski, from Illinois, who is Catholic.
  • Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan: Rev. Tim Wenzel, a retired priest who has served northern Minnesota for decades.

Minnesotans to attend other events with the pope

A few Minnesotans received official invitations to participate in various activities involving the pope, including:

  • Mary Jo Copeland, the head of Caring and Sharing Hands. She and her husband Richard will have a private meeting with Pope Francis Thursday at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C.
  • Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede was among the dignitaries at a welcoming ceremony for the pope at the White House Thursday morning. Brede was invited by the Obama Administration.
  • Ryan Currens of Burnsville was also invited by the White House to attend the ceremony, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Currens and Brede had both written letters to President Obama about the pope’s positions on social issues. The White House chose a few letter writers from each state to attend the ceremony.

The last papal visit to the U.S. was made by Pope Benedict in 2008.

Some tweets from the pope's visit so far

For more photos from Pope Francis' visit to Washington, click here.

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