True to his reputation of shaking up both the left and the right, Pope Francis praised American religious liberty during his speech at the White House Wednesday morning, calling it "America's most precious possession" that people feel afraid of losing.
Speaking slowly in English (not his strongest language), the Roman Pontiff, though thankful to President Obama for his warm welcome and efforts to battle climate change, drew a hard line on the issue of religious liberty, even going as far to say that American Catholics are vigilant to defend that freedom against "everything that would threaten or compromise it."
The Catholic Church has been at the forefront in the battle for religious liberty since the passage of the HHS mandate where employers were required to cover their employees' contraceptive devices in company insurance plans.
Pope Francis also praised the institution of the family, saying his visit will include an appearance at the Philadelphia World Meeting of Families in an effort to "celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization." Text below:
During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.
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. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.