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Pope Francis to Congress: Embrace the Golden Rule, immigration, gun control

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis invoked the Golden Rule in his historic speech Thursday before members of a polarized Congress, touching directly on immigration, gun control, abolishing the death penalty — and indirectly on abortion.

The pope arrived at the Capitol in his papal Fiat, speaking for about 48 minutes from the well of the House. Afterwards, he briefly greeted thousands of people gathered on the West Front of the Capitol and then headed to the St. Patrick in the City Church for lunch with the homeless.

The pope, the first to address a joint meeting of Congress, stood below the chiseled words, “In God We Trust,” and Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, both Catholics.

Some highlights:

• Thoughout his speech, the pope mentioned two of the most famous Americans, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.

• On fundamentalism “whether religious or of any other kind”: The pope said a “delicate balance is needed” to combat violence while “safeguarding religious freedom.”

• On immigration: Taking on an issue on which there is a great divide in Congress — and on which the pope sides with President Barack Obmama — the pope said he is the son of immigrants and “most of us were once foreigners. . . . When a stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and errors of the past. . . . on this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves.

• The Golden Rule, abortion and the death penalty: The pope got a big round of applause when he invoked the “do unto others” famous line. And then he addressed — without using the word — abortion and directly discussed ending the death penalty.

“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” the pope said. But instead of staying on abortion, he switched to the death penalty.

“This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

• On gun control: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?