Pope Francis’ historic address to a Joint Session of Congress Thursday resonated with Texas lawmakers of both parties who praised the pontiff’s message of discourse without division, even if they did not see an immediate path for resolving difficult issues, like immigration.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who was part of the congressional escort committee, said that while “sometimes life and politics can be a grind, it's moments like that that make me grateful to represent Texas in the Senate.”
Of Francis’ remarks: “Everybody who listened found something they liked and something that made them a little uncomfortable," Cornyn said.
Each member of the Senate and House had one ticket for a guest inside the chamber and Cornyn invited Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the state’s only member of the College of Cardinals.
The pope invoked the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and made an appeal to treat immigrants and refugees with respect.
“Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves,” he said.
Francis made the issue personal by saying that he was from a family of immigrants, which emigrated from Italy to Argentina, where he was born.
“His message of humility and service should be a lesson for all," said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas
Everybody who listened found something they liked and something that made them a little uncomfortable.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas
The pope also called for protecting all life, which several members focused on.
“On this historic day, let it be known that His Holiness came to Congress and called for safeguarding religious freedoms, protecting marriage and the family and defending human life,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas.
As for the pope’s evocation of the Golden Rule, Williams said that it “reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, noted that the pontiff was “a force for moral good in the world and it is great he came to the United States House of Representatives, where every voice should be heard.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has emerged as one of the chief antagonists in the Senate, not only of Democrats, but of his own party leaders, said Francis’ address “was a powerful call for all of us to set aside pettiness and partisan divides and come together with shared values to solve the very real challenges facing this country, and I hope that is a message that is heard on both sides of the aisle.”
He said the pope “is a powerful voice for life. He is powerful voice for marriage. He is a powerful voice for religious liberty.”
I will carry Pope Francis’ words with me as we move forward to address the problems that lay before us...reforming our broken immigration system, eradicating poverty and ensuring that all have a voice in our nation’s democracy.
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas
Francis’ remarks on immigration became a defining message for many.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, along the southern border, said his favorite line of the speech was, “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.”
“I will carry Pope Francis’ words with me as we move forward to address the problems that lay before us as a country,” said Rep. Marc Veasey, a Fort Worth Democrat who invited a DREAMer – a person brought as a child illegally to the U.S. –to the speech.
He ticked off his concerns: “Reforming our broken immigration system, eradicating poverty and ensuring that all have a voice in our nation’s democracy.”
As a Catholic, Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, said the pope’s message “really transcends the political boxes...He talked about life, nature, immigration. He came from a family of immigrants just like I did.”
Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson watched from his hotel in Arlington, Va., as he prepared to go to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, where the pope will speak this weekend.
“I am so proud of him,” the bishop said. “’I’m proud to be a Catholic and to be an American and to be on this trip.”