Pope Francis could’ve chosen any one of hundreds of great Americans to single out in his beautifully constructed, humbly and so quietly delivered, address to Congress Thursday.

He chose the universally known Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, and then the lesser-known Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, and Dorothy Day, a crusader for the poor.

Day was also a Greenwich Village Bohemian who took many lovers, had an abortion she regretted, a baby out of wedlock, and a failed marriage, and hung around with Communists.

Merton also had a child out of wedlock, though monastery censors removed that from his worldwide bestseller, “The Seven Storey Mountain.” Perhaps more significantly, Merton — a poet, mystic, and one of the most-read spiritual writers of the 20th century — delved deeply into Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Sufism and befriended both the Dali Lama and Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn, one of the world’s leading teachers of mindfulness. Such interfaith exploration was surely not encouraged by Catholicism in Merton’s day and remains controversial in some Catholic circles even now.

Yet the choice of Merton and Day was yet another wonderful Francis moment for those of us who like his embrace of a bigger tent Catholicism, particularly those of us who may have misbehaved once or twice — or hundreds of times — back in the day. Francis welcomes us back to the fold.

Since the beginning of his papacy, of course, Francis has said the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with abortion, contraception, and homosexuality and refocus on justice, the poor, and mercy, or risk its moral collapse “like a house of cards.”

Yesterday, he focused on an end to the greed of unregulated capitalism and arms dealing “for money that is drenched in blood.” He focused again on fighting global climate change, which he blamed, not once but twice, on human activity. He said we must embrace immigrants feeing north to America and refugees fleeing war.

All of it had to be very uncomfortable for Catholic Republicans, particularly those running for president, whose invocation of their faith to buttress their positions has now been seriously and repeatedly undermined.

In an otherwise very impressive demonstration of English delivery, the multilingual pope did mix up one of his best lines about the immigrants’ and refugees’ desire for a better life. “Is this not what we want for our children?” read his speech. But “This is not what we want for our children,” he said instead, apparently confusing the politicians who did not appear to have copies of his remarks in hand.

He never used the word “abortion,” however, referring about midway through his speech to “our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” (This got huge applause). But in the next sentence, he spoke not of the unborn, but of his desire to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

And his only mention of gays, if indeed it was a reference, came near the end of his remarks. In anticipation of his Philadelphia visit Saturday with its focus on threats to the family, “from within and without,” he said, “Fundamental relationships are being called into question.” But again, it was a muted reference as opposed to the crystal-clear admonitions to work for the poor, the planet, and the immigrant/refugee, and against greed.

Conservative Catholics keep noting that Pope Francis has changed no doctrine. And they are, of course, correct. And he himself says he’s not “leftie.” But this week, again, it’s become even clearer that what matters most to him is, indeed, what matters to those “lefties,” like it or not.