December 13, 2017
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

At White House, Pope calls on US for urgent action on climate change

Pope Francis today pressed the United States to take urgent steps to prevent environmental ruin and address poverty, further pushing the Catholic Church's case to address climate change.

"When it comes to the care of our 'common home,' we are living at a critical moment of history," he said in a speech at the White House, echoing his June encyclical on the environment.

US President Barack Obama welcomed Pope Francis to the White House earlier with warm praise for the popular pontiff's work to lift up the poor and his commitment to fight climate change.

Obama thanked the pope for his help in thawing relations between the United States and Cuba and called his message of "mercy" one that highlights the need to take in war refugees and immigrants.

The president singled out the pope's push for action on global warming, an issue that divides Democrats and Republicans in the United States.

"Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us," Obama said, according to prepared remarks.

"We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.

The 78-year-old Argentine pope closes out his day with a Mass at the one of the most important Roman Catholic churches in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

There, he will canonize 18th century Spanish missionary Friar Junipero Serra over the objections of critics who say that Serra suppressed Native American cultures in what is now California.

The pope has surprised some US Catholics with his strong words on climate change and criticism of the excesses of capitalism, with less of an emphasis on issues of sexual morality that some of his predecessors and US bishops had focused on.

But Francis, who some right-wing commentators have denounced as a Marxist, says his positions have not strayed from long-held Roman Catholic teachings.

"I am sure that I have not said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the Church," he told reporters on the plane from Cuba on Tuesday.

"It is I who follow the Church ... my doctrine on all this ... on economic imperialism, is that of the social doctrine of the Church."

Bestowing on Francis an honor that few foreign dignitaries receive, both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden personally greeted the pope on the tarmac after the Alitalia papal plane landed at Joint Base Andrews near the capital.

The pope's priorities line up with some of Obama's policy objectives, while leaving Catholic Republican presidential contenders, many of whom dispute the science of climate change, scrambling to explain their disagreements.

"I would not expect a robust discussion of a political agenda. But rather, I think it's an opportunity for the two men to talk about the values that they have in common," spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Obama and the pope agree that the 53-year-old embargo against Cuba should be lifted.

On the plane from Cuba, Francis told reporters he hopes the United States will lift the embargo as a result of negotiations between the two countries but does not plan to raise it in his address to Congress this week.

Tens of thousands of people, both Catholic admirers and curious onlookers, are expected to pack the streets around the Washington Monument and National Mall for a papal parade after the White House meeting.

"I am very excited to have him here. I have had the privilege of seeing three popes and I hope to see this one as well," said Mary Fontaine, as she headed into a lunchtime Mass at a Washington church on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, Francis will become the first pope to address Congress and then travels to New York to address the United Nations and visit the Ground Zero memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

He will close his trip on Sunday in Philadelphia at a worldwide Catholic gathering on family issues. The concluding Mass there is expected to draw some 1.5 million people.

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Tags:  Pope Francis  Barack Obama  US  United States  visit  meeting  private  Cuba  

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