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Pope Francis Focuses on Death Penalty, Downplays Abortion in Speech to Congress

(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Pope Francis focused more on the abolition of the death penalty than abortion as he urged Congress to protect every human life in his address this morning.

The pontiff made only one oblique reference to abortion during his speech, urging lawmakers to consider the Golden Rule when making policy. “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” he said in the prepared text.

He used that statement to introduce his remarks on the death penalty. “This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty,” he said. “I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

The pope’s light touch on abortion marked a change in emphasis from his remarks to the assembled bishops of the United States yesterday. “I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit,” he said on Wednesday.

RELATED: Full Text of Pope Francis’s Address to Congress

Francis concluded his address to Congress by saying that he wanted family issues to be “a recurrent theme” of his visit to the United States. “I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without,” he said. “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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