Pope to Congress: Time to act on climate change, poverty

Pope Francis: Congress needs to help nation grow
Pope Francis: Congress needs to help nation grow

In a historic presentation to Congress, Pope Francis urged lawmakers on Thursday to take "courageous actions" on global warming, poverty and the refugee crisis.

"I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play," the pope said in his prepared speech to a joint meeting of Congress.

The speech was the first time a pope had addressed Congress.

"Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature," the pope said in his prepared remarks.

Francis' environmentalist views have been criticized by some conservatives. Last week, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., he would boycott the pontiff's speech because of his climate change positions.

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"If the pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous," Gosar said.

In his prepared remarks, Francis also urged lawmakers to take more action to help Syrian refugees.

"Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions," he said in the prepared speech. "We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal."

The Department of Homeland Security said last week it was developing a plan for taking in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.

The pope began his visit to the U.S. on Tuesday and is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Friday. He will conclude his visit on Sunday in Philadelphia.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Pope Francis delivered a speech to a joint meeting of Congress, not a joint session.