Alaska’s DC delegation impressed by pope’s address to Congress

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Alaska’s three-member congressional delegation expressed deep gratitude that Pope Francis took time out of his apostolic visit to the United States to become the first-ever pontiff to speak to both houses of Congress on Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C.

Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both Catholic, attended the historic papal address in the House Chambers, along with Representative Don Young. Also in attendance were the president’s cabinet and members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sen. Sullivan attended the gathering with his invited guest, Father Tom Lilly from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Anchorage. (See related story on page one)

“As a lifelong Catholic, this has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the spiritual leader of my church talk about the issues that he and leaders across the globe are focused on — namely spreading Christian charity,” Sullivan noted on his Facebook page. “I was excited to join many of my colleagues at Mass yesterday, and to have my pastor, Father Tom Lilly of Anchorage, join me for the pope’s address to Congress today.”

Sen. Murkowski was among a select group of lawmakers who accompanied Pope Francis into the House Chamber prior to his speech.

In a statement issued shortly after the pope’s address, she said the Holy Father’s comments “encouraged us to participate in dialogue.”

“And something that I felt very strongly was his call for us to care for the vulnerable, to care for our families, to care for our children, and people across the world,” Murkowski added. “Regardless of your faith, regardless of your country — taking care of your family, attending to those families, that’s where we find strength. Those words I thought were most encouraging today.”

As reported by Alaska Dispatch News, Sen. Murkowski had a close encounter with Pope Francis, just before he delivered his speech. She was among several senators assigned to greet the pope inside the Capitol. Before the pope’s arrival, greeters were instructed on protocol for addressing the Holy Father.

“So we were lined up and we were told, stand with your feet together and your hands clasped in front of you, and if the pope greets you, then you can greet him back,” she told the Dispatch.

Murkowski reportedly brought two rosaries, which the pope blessed on his way into the House Chambers.

“I stretched out my cupped hand full of two rosaries,” she told the Dispatch. “He looked at me and he looked at the rosaries, and he came over … and he put his hand on the pile of rosaries, then he cupped my other hand over it, and blessed me.”

“Rep. Young said he felt “privileged to be among those in the House Chamber to listen” to the papal message.

“The Pope’s message of unity was something that should resonate with all races and walks of life,” Young observed. “Pope Francis reminded us all of something we were taught as children, the Golden Rule; to treat one another with respect and compassion as we navigate through our work here on earth.”

He added: “As leaders, [the pope] says we must ‘defend and preserve the dignity of fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good’ — words too often forgotten. Despite political party or ideology, at our core we are first and foremost Americans. We can accomplish great things, both here and around the world, when we work together.”


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