Pope Francis hadn’t even wrapped up his visit to the United States when, at the United Nations, President Barack Obama was invoking the pontiff’s words to lend a moral endorsement to the president’s goals.
In a speech delivered Sunday, Obama cited Pope Francis’ environmental message.
Speaking about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the president said of fighting climate change, “As His Holiness Pope Francis has rightly implored the world, this is a moral calling.”
“All of our countries will be affected by a changing climate,” Obama said. “But the world’s poorest people will bear the heaviest burden — from rising seas and more intense droughts, shortages of water and food.”
Speaking Monday morning to the UN General Assembly, Obama again reiterated the pope’s message to care for the vulnerable.
“As His Holiness Pope Francis reminds us, we are stronger when we value the least among these and see them as equal in dignity to ourselves and our sons and our daughters,” the president said.
Obama highlighted Francis in a section of his speech devoted to ending HIV/AIDS, fighting global poverty, and protecting the environment.
Earlier this year, the president used his State of the Union address to thank Pope Francis for his role in helping to facilitate talks between the United States and Cuba that led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Pope Francis used two high-profile speeches — to a joint meeting of Congress and the opening of the UN General Assembly — to renew his call to political leaders to take action to prevent environmental degradation, to welcome immigrants, and to put a halt to conflict in the Middle East and Africa.
The president greeted the pontiff upon his arrival at Joint Base Andrews last Tuesday, and officially welcomed to the United States in an elaborate ceremony on the White House South Lawn the following day.
The two leaders talked privately afterward for about 45 minutes, the second time the pair has met.
Whether or not the pope’s six-day visit to the United States produces any lasting political implications remains to be seen. But Speaker of the House John Boehner, a practicing Catholic who had unsuccessfully invited popes to speak to Congress for two decades until Francis accepted his invitation earlier this year, resigned suddenly the following day.