Pope Francis spent a sunny Wednesday mid-morning delivering brief remarks on climate change, the need to protect the Earth and reduce air pollution during a White House joint event with President Obama – but core chunks of the pontiff’s message were muffled, due to his broken English and heavy accent, and not all his words may have immediately resonated with listeners.
Thousands of people gathered in Washington to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis as he launched his first visit to the United States.
According to published transcripts of his speech, the pontiff spoke primarily of the need to clean up the environment and take action on “critical” anti-air pollution reforms “that can no longer be left to future generations.”
Pope Francis also spoke of “the honor of addressing Congress,” and his looming travel to the Philadelphia to “celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.”
He went on, the transcript showed: “Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.”
He praised Obama for pressing to save the air from pollution.
“Accepting the urgency,” he said, the transcript showed, “it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our ‘common home,’ we are living at a critical moment in history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about ‘a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.'”
The pope said “such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies.”
He referenced the Rev. Martin Luther King to make the point “we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”
Obama, for his part, said Pope Francis has “shaken us out of our slumber” with his views and pressing for change, Fox News reported.
Obama also said: “In your humility, your embrace of simplicity, in the gentleness of your words and the generosity of your spirit, we see a living example of Jesus’ teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds.”
Obama and Pope Francis headed into the White House for a private meeting on undisclosed topics after they finished their joint speech.
In the coming days, the pope is due to address the United Nations as well as a joint session of Congress, and then travel to Philadelphia for a world meeting of families.