This weekend was a momentous one for Philadelphia and Hispanic communities across America. The first Latin American Pope spoke in Spanish during the majority of his visit and made powerful statements about immigrants in the U.S. all right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. That is certainly a reason to be proud.
We have a great opportunity to use this moment to talk about our faith. Hispanic faith is recognized as an important part of our cultural identity and one of the main reasons both political parties see Hispanics as a viable target audience for their presidential contenders. The time is now to let the world know how our faith speaks to our values and determines the decisions we make and the positions we take in today’s society.
We offer this excerpt from the transcript of Pope Francis’ speech at Independence Hall to speak to the importance of standing up for, “the least of these” (Matthew 25: 40) and remembering that our rich culture, which includes our faith, is what makes our country great by adding diversity and depth:
“I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant. All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.
Among us today are members of America’s large Hispanic population, as well as representatives of recent immigrants to the United States. I greet all of you with particular affection! Many of you have emigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life.
Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation. You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.
I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood. You are also called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within.
Dear friends, I thank you for your warm welcome and for joining me here today. May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself. May he bless you all. I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me.”