Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angered Democrats in March while giving a speech before a joint session of Congress in which he strongly denounced President Obama’s efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.
As NBC News reports, “Six months later, a man from abroad, with an even larger following than Netanyahu, came with a message that delighted the left.”
While Pope Francis did not directly address U.S. politics in his Thursday speech, he did talk about the importance of combating climate change, encouraging immigration and coming together for the common good – talking points that closely aligned himself with Obama’s own policies and ideals.
At one point, Republicans were fooled when they interrupted the Pope’s speech with a loud standing ovation, thinking he was about to address the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion – but they were wrong, as the the Pope went on to speak out against the death penalty.
The Pope began by invoking the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – telling Congress:
Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.
As Pope Francis continued, he received a massive standing ovation from Republicans when he said: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Their elation was short-lived, however, as it turned out that the Pope was referring to the death penalty and not abortion, telling Congress:
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. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
As NBC noted in their report on the speech, “Both U.S. political parties used to support the death penalty, but the left is increasingly skeptical of death sentences. Two of the more liberal justices on the Supreme Court in suggested in June the U.S. should reconsider if the death penalty is constitutional.”
You can watch this portion of the Pope’s speech in the clip, below: