I’m no crybaby. I rarely tear up at sappy endings or sad occasions.
Just 27 seconds into his speech, when he declared in halting English, “I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress, in ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ ”
This lifelong Roman Catholic and dedicated political junkie wept at the profound sight of a pope giving divine counsel at the Ground Zero of American politics.
The tears fell as I knew how blessed we are to enjoy the world’s greatest freedoms, protected by a legacy of bravery and sacrifice.
The tears flowed as I craved an America that must become even more proud and free.
Pope Francis stood on treacherous territory. Washington, D.C. has been in deep gridlock, over vanity, power and ideology.
A pope has never done this before, perhaps because of fears about our constitutional boundaries. Let the Donald Trumps and the Ben Carsons pander over the separation of church and state.
There is no better time for the world’s most influential religious leader to tell us that America has the power to heal what he called our “open wounds.”
The world needs the greatest nation to be greater. He pleaded that we unify on so many urgent matters — war and peace, immigration, the environment, the sanctity of life, the death penalty. His words offered common ground to unite around our differences.
Most profound was the pope’s take on politics. Ironically, this line was in his prepared remarks, but he did not say it out loud that day:
“If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”
He did tell Congress that “Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life.”
On Sept. 17 Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich stood for a speech before the Chicago Federation of Labor in Plumber’s Hall on the city’s near West Side. He stood for the worker.
“For centuries, but especially over the last 125 years, the Catholic Church has offered a strong and principled vision on the dignity of work and justice for workers.”
The Catholic church, upholds “standards of justice in the work place, including the right to a living wage, the right to safe work places, the right to health care, and to the need to provide for retirement,” Cupich declared. “Similarly, the church has consistently taught that workers have a right to have a voice in the workplace, to form and join unions, to bargain collectively and protect their rights.”
More treacherous territory. No better time.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has been pushing a fierce, pro-business campaign to eviscerate unions and enact anti-union reforms. The fierce resistance from Democrats has ensured gridlock in Springfield and beyond.
Pope Francis and Archbishop Cupich have melded religion and politics into a potent combo.
Will their words make a difference? Will they inspire humanity, compromise, and peace from Washington, D.C., to Springfield?
The dry-eyed cynic in me doubts it.
But she would cry, with joy, for that.
Follow Laura Washington on Twitter: Follow @mediadervish