Pope Francis Addresses Congress

From the moment it was announced that Pope Francis would be coming to DC in the fall of 2015, my heart filled with joy knowing that I would be in the same city as the leader of my church – and a very transformative leader at that. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I found out that I would be attending his mass at Catholic University and watching his address to Congress from the West Capitol lawn. As a government major and a Catholic, I was thrilled to be given this opportunity to witness the first papal address to the United States Congress.

For me, the energy on the Capitol lawn began long before the 9:20 a.m. address. Some friends of mine ventured to Capitol Hill as early as four in the morning! I myself got there a little later, but the crowd of people gathered for the address was unlike anything I had ever seen. Something that shocked me was how friendly everyone in the crowd was. They shared their stories of faith and their different reasons for coming to DC that morning. This was a culture shock to the typical business-only attitude that strangers in DC tend to share on any other day of the year. That morning, the crowd was full of joy in eager anticipation of Pope Francis.

From the time Pope Francis arrived at the Capital, the crowd waited eagerly for him to begin his speech. Pope Francis began by expressing his gratitude for being invited to address the joint session in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” His opening line sent shivers down my spine, and a chorus of cheers and applause erupted from the crowd.

Pope Francis’s address touched on many different issues through the lenses of four transformative figures in American history: President Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Pope Francis didn’t smooth over the issues that our country and the world at large face today. He called for a “renewal of the spirit of cooperation” among Americans in order to promote the common good. Pope Francis acknowledged that this isn’t always an easy task, but he wishes to encourage us in our shared mission. In an increasingly polarized political circuit, the Pope’s message was a much needed, meaningful reminder for me.

I will cherish this day and experience for the rest of my life, and the chants of the crowd will always ring in my ears: “Viva il Papa, viva il Papa.”

Written by Erica Tillotson, C’18