Dear Mr. President:
For the sake of the common good - a foundational principle of the Catholic social justice tradition that has informed our nation's conscience for over a century - our faith calls us to share these thoughts with you on the occasion of your meeting with Pope Francis.
Since you entered the presidential political arena, millions of people have felt fear, despair, and estrangement - to an unprecedented degree in modern political history - as a result of your words and actions. You have demeaned women, Hispanics, and disabled people. And we believe that you have been a party to fostering division throughout the world, with particularly adverse consequences for Muslims, Jews, and the sick and poor among others.
You have made disrespectful statements about both the U.S. Bishops and Pope Francis, our beloved pontiff (a word that means bridge-builder).
Additionally, so many of the policies that your Administration advances violate the indelible social justice principles of our Catholic faith, including:
At the same time, Pope Francis has been not only a head of state, and "political person" as you described him, but also a holy person who has captured the imagination of the world in leading a global church of 1.3 billion people. We know him by how he awakens our hearts - and those of other faiths and no faith - and by the "fruits" (Matthew 7:20) of his labor in building bridges to connect and care for our human family.
Pope Francis, a self-proclaimed sinner, has provided us all an example to emulate. Like him, we strive to recognize our own failings that separate us from God and one another. In doing so, we pray that we may feel the transformative power of God's mercy and grace. With God's grace we are connected to one another, freeing us to break down walls, build bridges, and to live lives of justice and love.
Therefore, we stand in solidarity with the pope and those with whom he has stood by, including: refugees and immigrants; the poor and marginalized; the vulnerable and sick; the homeless; women and children; and mother earth herself. We ask you to join Pope Francis and us.
Mr. President, when you meet Pope Francis, images of you and him will fill the front and home pages of news outlets around the globe. Yet proximity and "photo-ops" do not create solidarity.
So, we urge you to ask yourself if you want to be seen as standing in the presence of Pope Francis or standing with him. And if it is the latter, what will you do to demonstrate that solidarity?
Your meeting with Pope Francis presents you - and all of us - with an uncommon opportunity to build bridges for a more peaceful world and to care for our spiritual lives and one another.
We urge you to treat Pope Francis with respect and humility because we believe that the pope will be seeking "only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with [our] God." (Micah 6:8)
And we are called to pray that you will feel an awakening in your heart, not only for your own spiritual benefit but also for that of the common good.
In closing, we ask you to consider the following: while the fruits of Pope Francis' work are already assured for history, what fruits of your labor do you want to ultimately define your personal and presidential legacy?
We, the undersigned
I appeal to not create walls
but to build bridges.
-Pope Francis, February 2017
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