Pope Francis calls on President Trump to care for the poor and the outcast

U.S. President Donald Trump places his hand on the Bible as he takes the oath of office administered by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts Jan. 20. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

Pope Francis sent a congratulatory message to President Donald J. Trump on Friday, telling the new president that the global stature of the United States will be measured “by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need.”

“Upon your inauguration as the forty-fifth President of the United States of America, I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office,” the pope wrote.

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Francis, who has made highlighting the global refugee crisis a hallmark of his papacy, wrote that “our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding farsighted and united political responses.”

He wrote that he prayed that Mr. Trump’s decisions as president would be “guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide.”

“Under your leadership,” the pope continued, “may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.”

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“With these sentiments,” the pope concluded, “I ask the Lord to grant you and your family, and all the beloved American people, his blessings of peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity.”

The pope’s hopes for U.S. global leadership on humanitarian issues under President Trump may be difficult to realize.

During his inaugural address, Mr. Trump repeated his campaign pledge that America’s interests would take top precedence in his administration.

“We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power,” he said. “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first—America first.”

Mr. Trump also promised “to unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.” Pope Francis has consistently refused to equate Islam with terrorism.

Mr. Trump and Pope Francis have never met, but the pair clashed in 2015 over the president’s campaign promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In February 2015, following a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, the pope said in response to a question from a journalist that politicians who propose building walls instead of bridges are “not Christian,” leading to objections from the Trump campaign. The Vatican later clarified the remark, saying that the pope was not speaking about specific candidates.

(Curiously, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, the pastor invited by the Trump inauguration committee to preach to the president-elect during a private service on Friday morning, riffed on a passage from the Old Testament, saying, “You see, God is NOT against building walls!”)

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More recently, just days before Americans headed to the polls, the pope delivered a passionate speech in which he urged the world not to succumb to the politics of fear, which many interpreted as a rebuke to Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

“Because fear—as well as being a good deal for the merchants of arms and death—weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others,” the pope said.

“In the end,” he continued, “it makes us cruel.”

The pope went on to describe the refugee crisis “a problem of the world” and urged political leaders to do more.

On the issue of migration more generally, Francis devoted several minutes of the speech to condemning “physical and social walls” that “close in some and exclude others.”

The full text of the pope’s message to President Trump:

The Honorable Donald Trump

President of the United States of America

The White House

Washington, DC

Upon your inauguration as the forty-fifth President of the United States of America, I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office. At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding farsighted and united political responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide. Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door. With these sentiments, I ask the Lord to grant you and your family, and all the beloved American people, his blessings of peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity.

FRANCISCUS PP.

This story includes updates.

 

Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America and author of The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Vincent Gaglione
10 months ago
I found Pope Francis’ congratulatory message to Trump quite on target. Considering that Trump referred to Francis’ remarks about walls and bridges vis-à-vis Trump’s call for a wall between Mexico and the USA as “disgraceful”, I thought the Pope was gracious. It’s the style of the man, a rather stark contrast with the man to whom he sent the congratulations. (I know, Trump told the Congressional crowd at the lunch to acknowledge Bill and Hillary. After Trump’s negligence in stopping the “lock her up” chants at his rallies and calling her “crooked Hillary”, it probably was just boastful sarcasm on his part.) I did not watch the inauguration, not wanting to jack up Trump’s television ratings. I did listen while riding in my car and doing some errands, to portions of the inauguration. I thought Dolan’s choice of a reading was quite on target. I found a couple of other invocations that I heard disconcerting. A couple of preachers’ invocations of Christ’s name were disconcerting to me. Inasmuch as there were no representatives of non-Western faiths, it could be misconstrued as deliberately insulting to unbelievers and non-Western faiths. Or am I being politically correct in a nation with no established religion per its Constitution to which the President and his VP swore allegiance? Also, I thought that the rabbi’s choice of words regarding Jerusalem a little bit political. Perhaps not, but of what I heard, it struck me that way. So I looked for texts of the prayers on Google. No luck. But one of the leading links was to Christianity Today, the evangelical website founded by Billy Graham. Its lead story for the day was that Cardinal Dolan’s choice of a reading was probably unfamiliar to Protestants because it came from a book that Protestants regard as Apocrypha. So I really don’t know if my reactions to the prayers was appropriate or not. In my opinion, with him as President we need God’s blessings and protection more than Trump does.
Tom Fields
10 months ago
Bill and Hillary were your alternatives?
Kevin Murphy
9 months 3 weeks ago

Has your opinion of Pope Francis changed after his somewhat heavy handed takeover of Malta, a sovereign country. The mask falls off, and we see a bit more of the man.

E.Patrick Mosman
10 months ago
Pope Francis is totally misinformed either through a failure to study and understand the situations in the Middle East, Africa and the Americas or to rely on the leftist advisers when he offers advice to President Trump on the refugee problem. The Pope should be emphasizing that these refugees from the Middle East and Africa are fleeing from the internicine religious Sunni vs Shia warfare and homicidal Muslim hordes labeled,ISIS, Boko Haram, et al targeting non-muslims, in particular Christians, that are devastating their homelands. The refugees from Mexico, Cuba and Central/South America are fleeing corrupt politicians/government officials and vicious drug lords. And where do these homeless want to go? They are heading to those countries whose socio-economic systems the Pope condemns as "bad, unjust" and even worse. The Pope should be lecturing the leaders of those countries to improve conditions so that their citizens do not have to leave instead of calling out those countries that he says must absorb them. He is truly preaching a false economic message to go with his false non-science based musings on climate change. .
Vincent Gaglione
10 months ago
So I imagine you see no comparison with the hordes of Irish immigrants who came to the United States escaping the internecine Christian battles between Protestant hegemony and Catholic oppression, between Christian wealthy elites and the poor. I figure the nativist reactions back then were no different than your analysis and reactions to what’s happening now. Today the refugees are mostly Muslims and a sprinkling of Christians from Syria and fellow Catholics from Mexico and Central America and Cuba. We Catholics have no Christian duty to them. I think you sound very much like President Trump, America first. The Crusades are over and the “Deus vult” twitter feed of St. Bernard turns out to have been not so Christian at all. Pope Francis is more like his namesake, St. Francis, who went to Egypt to meet the sultan and plead for mutual understanding and peace. And rather than mimic a President who invents a “radical Islam” enemy (they are just murderous thugs who use religion as their device to gain and enslave people under their power, as did the IRA), the Pope appeals to us to be more like Christ. Not a bad or inappropriate message from a man who is Pope, the one we call the Vicar of Christ on earth. There was a story in the papers the other day that the 8 richest persons in the world, most of them USA citizens, possess wealth equal to that owned by one half the population of the world. Here in the United States, even among us readers and writers on the America website, there’s an awful lot of surplus money floating around. I think that the Pope’s advisors are less the leftists whom you repudiate but rather Christ himself. Christ told us that at the last judgment we will be asked whom we fed, clothed, sheltered, etc. I think that’s what Pope Francis is trying to get us – and Trump – to think about and act upon.
J Cosgrove
10 months ago
From your comment, it doesn't seem that you understand Islam. There are several excellent sources by Catholics. Here are three good ones. 111-Questions-Islam-Samir-Khalil-ebook by an Egyptian Jesuit whose native language is Arabic http://amzn.to/1TNUHwm Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics: 100 Questions and Answers - one of the authors is Catholic convert from Islam and has an introduction by a Jesuit. http://amzn.to/2cPezmO A course by Now You Know media by a Catholic scholar on Islam http://bit.ly/2jKQOkO Islam is incompatible with Western culture. We should be compassionate with Muslims who can be very decent people but should try to settle any refugees in countries that are fundamentally Muslim.
Tom Fields
10 months ago
The Irish came, they spoke the language---they went to work---started businesses and took little free money.
Vincent Gaglione
10 months ago

The Irish came to the USA for the same reasons as current immigrants who arrive…homeland violence and economic and political exploitation, including hunger and poverty, to work and raise their families in peace.

A reading of the historical records of those times, however, reveals opinions about the Irish quite reminiscent of your own about current immigrants. A matter of misperception? Or xenophobia? Or just plain old fashioned bigotry? Whatever, none of them reflect Catholic Christian values.

An ironic reply you note about language… the Irish were forced to absorb the language of their oppressors and have never been able to restore the Gaelic language to their entire population even though taught in schools. Except for the Gaeltacht, Gaelic is dead.

In the latest issue of Catholic New York even Cardinal Dolan alludes to Matthew 25, 31-46 as a last judgment imperative. Apparently we Catholics aren’t hearing much about its literal meaning for us from parish pulpits.
45 “He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

E.Patrick Mosman
10 months ago

Mr. Vincent Gaglione
It seems you have a reading or more likely a comprehension problem as you totally ignored my points and try to reinterpret what was written.
In plain English Pope Francis has
-essentially condemned the economic systems of the USA/Europe and other capitalist nations.
-failed to condemn the failure of many nations, Mid-East, Central and South America to protect the rights of their citizens from crooked politicians and vicious gangs.
-failed to challenge the Shia mullahs of Iran and the Wahabbi mullahs of Saudi Arabia who support terrorism and the internicine religious Muslim wars which are killing fellow Muslims,non- Muslims specially Christians and Jews.
The Pope has failed to attack the root causes of these mass migrations even praising Islam as a great religion while expecting nations that he has routinely condemned to open their borders to everyone.

Vincent Gaglione
10 months ago

My original reply to your comments merely attempted to put the refugee and immigration issues that you raised in some kind of historical context in USA history. 19th century Protestant complaints about Catholic immigration to the USA sounded very similar to your own current complaints. I do presume that you are Catholic and not evangelical Protestant.

You argue that Pope Francis is misinformed, relies on leftist advisers, has condemned USA capitalism and subscribes to climate change falsehoods. I have no knowledge that anything you noted is even close to true. I would bet that your claims are the extravagances of your own opinions on all these matters.

The only issue I do know about is unfettered capitalism, something that Pope Francis has talked about but without directing it to the USA from what I have read. We are certainly not the only capitalist country in the world. Unfettered capitalism certainly is an issue for Catholics who subscribe to a sense of sharing as described in the early pages of the Acts of the Apostles. I am hounded by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York annually, by mail and from the parish pulpit, to share my wealth with the poor. I don’t know if that is your experience wherever you live. The recent reports that 8 American billionaires have the wealth equal to the wealth of one half of the world’s population does give me pause about unfettered capitalism, as it apparently does to Francis. It does seem to me that the Pope is on the right track on that issue.

My second set of comments was directed to Mr. Fields’ comments about my statements about Irish immigration.

I do note that I have yet to see any comment that contradicts my references to Matthew 25, in which Christ’s own words speak rather specifically to the necessity of feeding the hungry, welcoming the strangers, etc. There is no political right or left, only heaven or hell, on the interpretation of those words, as Pope Francis well understands. I think that’s what he is trying to tell us.

E.Patrick Mosman
10 months ago

Mr. Gaglione
For those who claim that Jesus was a big-government socialist provider with regard to helping those in need and reducing individuals personal responsibility to only “Love the Neighbor’ and replacing it with government programs is a misreading of His message. Jesus Christ made the point “to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” with no guidelines as to how the Romans were to spend the tax monies. “For you will have the poor always with you” Matthew 26.11 and nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus Christ lay the responsibility for caring for the poor, the sick the hungry or thirsty, the homeless or any oppressed people on any governmental body. He did not cite King Herod, the priests of the temple, the local politicians or the Roman powers as the source of Charity. He made it an individual responsibility time after time in His sermons, in His parables and in His own acts. The Good Samaritan was not an example of “Love thy neighbor” because he stopped at the inn to make a 911 call but because he acted, providing aid, comfort and financial assistance to his neighbor. Jesus Christ’s teachings cannot be used be used to support states becoming the major or only source of charitable acts.

Tom Fields
10 months ago
Trump should send a message to the Pope-----make displaced people your top priority----find safe places---pledge billions----provide food, building materials, missionaries, doctors and teachers. Provide Priests and Religious----if necessary establish new Religious Orders.

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