Welcome to the United States of America. In your own recent words, “a big greeting!”
We have awaited your arrival with joyful anticipation and hope, each of us with our own reasons, but all of us with a shared consolation that you remind us often and in many ways that we are one connected human family.
Holy Father, you said that it is important for you to “draw close to [our] path and [our] history.” You should know that we are a work in progress, defined by both bold strokes and ambiguities.
We have pledged countless times that we are “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” yet we are challenged to agree on the meaning of liberty and justice.
Our Statue of Liberty calls out to all nations to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” while many try to repel those who follow her call.
We are the richest nation on earth, whose economy is now defined by inequality, poverty, and decreased wages.
The term “American Exceptionalism,” coined over a century and a half ago, has taken on new meaning and stirs debate as to whether the notion defines our past and present nature or our future aspirations.
For all of the good that our nation represents and has achieved in “harmonizing earth and heaven” for the common good, we know that much work lies ahead.
For more than a century, the Catholic Social Justice Tradition, which you vibrantly proclaim, has informed our nation’s conscience and public policies. Yet you come at a time when ideological differences − on such moral issues as our economy, immigration and the environment − have become seemingly irreconcilable between people of goodwill. Today, the “American Experiment” is on full display.
The Gospel values that you profoundly reveal inspire us individually, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to live as sisters and brothers and for “friendship in society.” At the same time, you also urge us to “meddle in politics” collectively “because we all have to participate for the common good.”
And so, we welcome the opportunity to walk with you in friendship on the journey you have undertaken on behalf of the Catholic Church and all of humanity. We pray that we are prepared and have the courage to listen, to reflect, and to act – in your Jesuit tradition – on the challenges that you present to all of us.
You have humbly asked for our prayers. Holy Father, we pray for you. It is hard for us to imagine the burdens you must carry as a symbol of hope to the global community. So please know that we stand together with you. As you once said about solidarity - “... it is our word.”
In peace, solidarity, and love,