#1066: Dick Bernard: The Pope’s Speech to the U.S. Congress September 24, 2015

Written by admin on September 27th, 2015

In my September 21 post, I described Pope Francis as a transformational figure, setting a new tone for the global conversation, not only among Catholics. He had just arrived in the United States. Today he leaves. Nothing changes in my personal assessment of this Pope.

I was most interested in his address to Congress on September 24. That speech can be read in its entirety here.

I watched most of the speech on television, then printed out the text, something I rarely do. It was noted by reporter that the dignitaries in the chamber didn’t receive advance copies of the speech. In effect, they weren’t given cue cards about when to applaud or not, and had to guess when or whether to cheer this or that pronouncement of this first-time visitor to the United States.

And the speech was given in English, apparently as foreign to the Pope as Spanish is to reddest of the rednecks about those people from south of the border….

The Pope’s speech was, I believe, not to the Congress at all, but to everyone else who took the time to watch or listen to it or print it out for further reflection…and action. As one would expect, it was very carefully crafted.

Leaders have to be astute people, simply to be in the positions they occupy. The Pope has achieved a pinnacle he never dreamed of (nor wanted) and his performance speaks for itself. My Catholic Church is no Democracy, but Pope’s are elected by their brothers in the College of Cardinals. Doubtless Pope Francis didn’t get unanimous affirmation from his peers…but he got enough. Not all the Cardinals were, likely, happy with the result.

Likewise, Catholic Bishops are not “birds of a single feather” either.

The best a Pope can try to do in his time in office is to get his point across, and Pope Francis continues to speak eloquently for himself in that regard.

What I personally noticed in his speech, as I was watching it, was what he had to say, particularly the words he used.

The word I noticed that he specifically emphasized was a pretty powerful one: “dialogue”. Best I can tell he used that word 11 times in his speech, with emphasis. While the political polarization of the last ten or more Congresses have emphasized polarization and refusal to compromise, here was someone in their midst repeatedly asking for dialogue.

(“Dialogue” is a favorite of mine: A word search shows “dialogue” appearing in some form in 55 of these blogposts over the years, including the first, introducing this site March 29, 2009, and especially October 29, 2010. My favorite definition of “dialogue” is at the end of the Oct. 29 post. I include it again at the end of this post.)

My guess is that, when he was talking to Congress, Pope Francis was mostly talking to the rest of us who elected these folks in the first place.

His whirlwind visit to North America is about over, and the rest is left to all of us.

The ball is in our court. Will we be in the game, and stay in that game, or not?

It’s an important question only each one of us can answer.

ON DIALOGUE: (from #266, October 29, 2010)
I often go back to a great quote I found in Joseph Jaworsky’s 1996 book, “Synchronicity, the Inner Path of Leadership“. Preceding the chapter on “Dialogue: The Power of Collective Thinking“, Jaworsky includes the following from David Bohms “On Dialogue”:

From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle.
They just talked and talked and talked apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader. And everybody could participate.
There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more – the older ones – but everybody could talk.
The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well. Then they could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.


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