Your Holiness, distinguished guests, and friends,
The United States is an experiment in freedom ordered by law and ordered to basic truths about the human person. The greatest goods in the American character come from our belief in a merciful God — a God who guarantees the dignity and rights of all his children.
Alexander Hamilton was one of America’s greatest Founding Fathers. He helped write our Constitution right here at Independence Hall. He was also one of our greatest immigrants. Born in the West Indies, Hamilton was a friend to George Washington. He fought in the Revolution, wrote nearly two-thirds of The Federalist Papers and set the United States on a course to become a world power.
The lesson in his life is simple: This is a nation that no single ethnic group or privileged economic class “owns.” It’s a country where a person who comes from nowhere can still make a difference. It’s a nation where a man who never knew his own birthday – Hamilton was born out of wedlock — can take part in the birth of a new order. He reminds us that immigrants from around the world renew this country in every generation. They breathe new life into what George Washington called the “bosom of America.”
We live at an odd time in history. When the Church defends marriage and the family, the unborn child and the purpose of human sexuality, she’s attacked as too harsh. When she defends immigrant workers and families that are broken up by deportation, she’s attacked as too soft. And yet she is neither of those things.
Pope John XXIII – now St. John XXIII — described the Church as the “mother and teacher” of humanity — a mother who understands and loves the whole human person; from conception to natural death; always, consistently and everywhere. When it comes to immigration, the Church reminds us that in the end, all of us are children of the same loving God. That makes us brothers and sisters, despite the borders that separate us. And in arguing over borders to keep people out, we need to be vigilant against erecting those same borders in our hearts.
The person who can speak that truth most powerfully is with us today, and I invite the Holy Father to share his thoughts with us now.