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Press Release: NETWORK Presents Capitol Hill Briefings on Pope Francis in Preparation for Papal Meeting with President Obama

FOR RELEASE: March 25, 2014                                                                           

CONTACT: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224,  sniedringhaus@networklobby.org

Washington DC: Today on Capitol Hill, four prominent Catholic Americans briefed members of congressional offices on how the words and actions of Pope Francis apply to today’s world of U.S. politics. The purpose was to provide context for this Thursday’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama. They also commented on topics that they expected and hoped would be covered during the meeting.

The two briefings took place at the Senate Hart Office Building and House Visitors Center so that representatives from both houses of Congress could take part.

During the briefings, Father Thomas J. Reese, SJ, author and Senior Analyst at the National Catholic Reporter, spoke as a fellow Jesuit about the importance of Pope Francis being the first pope from the Americas and the Global South. He also provided an introduction to the pope’s critically important justice teachings contained in his recent apostolic exhortation (Evangelii Guadium), reminding those present that “Pope Francis is calling us to reject indifference and embrace the poor.”

Sister Simone Campbell spoke directly to the political challenges of translating the moral teachings of the pope into government actions. She said, “The president’s meeting with Pope Francis is an opportune time to highlight the pope’s message for the 100%. Pope Francis is challenging all of us to work for the common good by having government effectively regulate markets to bring down income and wealth disparities so that all prosper. The goal, he says, is to create an economy where safety nets are no longer needed because all have meaningful employment with living wages.” Sister Simone is the Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community.

Sister Ann Scholz, SSND, PhD, Associate Director for Social Mission of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), commented on the pope’s messages on economic inequality and wealth disparities – and the realities of what we see happening today. She reminded those present that “Pope Francis is clear -- unless and until we address the structural causes of poverty we will continue to face endless crises and we will fail to solve any of the world’s most pressing problems.”

Eli McCarthy, PhD, Director, Office of Justice and Peace, Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), spoke about the pope’s strong call to peacemaking in our world. "Pope Francis illuminates that 'war is the suicide of humanity.' Instead, peace requires the justice of concern for the poor and equitable distribution of wealth. Justice requires peacemakers who turn their swords into ploughshares."

On Thursday (March 27), President Obama will meet with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. The president will also take part in a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. 

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