BY ISN STAFF | September 21, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With Pope Francis’s arrival nearing, Very Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, offered insights on the Holy Father’s visit in a letter to each of the Jesuit-educated members of Congress. The two-page letter sent to fifty-six members of the 114th Congress, forty-four in the U.S. House (sample House letter addressed to Speaker Boehner) and 12 in the U.S. Senate (sample Senate letter addressed to Senator Casey), was distributed to offices on September 16. Recipients graduated from either a U.S. Jesuit high school or university, or in some cases both. In a historic first, Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress on September 24 at the request of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. Boehner is a graduate of Xavier University, the Jesuit university in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“As you well know, Jesuit education stresses the ideal of being “men and women for others,” with a particular commitment to those who are most vulnerable,” said Fr. Kesicki. He went on to affirm their willingness to serve the public and said that they are each “uniquely positioned to make a profound impact on the common good and well-suited to substantively engage the message of the world’s most famous Jesuit, Pope Francis.”
Utilizing a series of quotations from various speeches and homilies by Pope Francis, Fr. Kesicki highlighted a number of topics he anticipates Pope Francis engaging while in the U.S., especially during his address to Congress. These topics include environmental justice and climate change, protecting the human rights of migrants, addressing the root causes of migrants fleeing Central America, and reconciliation and rehabilitation in justice systems.
The final quotation chosen by Kesicki came from an address Pope Francis made to the College of Cardinals in December of 2013, only months after assuming the papacy. Pope Francis decried a global economic system and cultural norms that discard vulnerable human life as worthless or inconvenient, saying, “The victims of such a culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings – the unborn, the poorest people, sick elderly people, gravely disabled people… who are in danger of being ‘thrown out,’ expelled from a machine that must be efficient at all costs.”
In the closing paragraphs, Kesicki noted that “for the Pope social justice is inextricably linked to our Catholic faith.” He went on to say that “this poses a challenge to those of us who reside in comfort and health in a land of plenty” and expressed hope in the possibility of working with each members on the many issues that matter to the Pope.