Pope Francis on Wednesday addressed a crowd at the White House, calling climate change an urgent problem as he embarks on his first tour of the United States.
In his speech from the White House lawn, the pontiff talked, as many had expected, about the fight against climate change. He praised President Barack Obama for his proposals, which aim for the US to cut emissions by up to 28% over the next decade.
“Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are introducing an initiative for reducing air pollution,” Pope Francis said.
The pope said climate change was a “problem that can no longer be left to a future generation.”
A few months ago, Pope Francis angered many Republicans and climate-change sceptics in the United States, as he called for global action to address the plight.
Preceding the pope’s speech, Obama had addressed his previous call for action.
“We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations,” Obama said.
Climate change was not the only issue the leader of the Catholic Church addressed. At a time when immigration reform is a central theme of the 2016 presidential election, Pope Francis reminded the crowd that he, too, was the son of an immigrant.
“As the son of an immigrant, I’m happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families,” he said.
But as many Republicans have been dismayed by the religious leader’s embrace of some more left-leaning economic policies, his speech also included a nod to the right. The pontiff said US bishops must protect religious freedom, as well as “preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
Wednesday morning provided Pope Francis’ first speech in Washington, DC, before a meeting with Obama. On Thursday, he will deliver a highly anticipated address to Congress.
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