Immigrants have important gifts to offer the United States, gifts that will help to renew this society from within, according to Pope Francis.
The Holy Father called on immigrants to make their contribution to society when today in Philadelphia he spoke to a group representing those who have arrived recently to this country.
Francis gave his address from Independence Hall: an address focused not only on immigration, but also on religious freedom.
He spoke of the ongoing effort to embody the principles of the Declaration of Independence in social and political life, and the importance of remembering one’s history.
"We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans," he said.
"This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed," the Pope said, departing from his text to add, "When a country holds on to the memory of its roots, it continues to grow, it renews itself and continues receiving within itself new peoples and new persons who come."
The Pope thanked those who "have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant."
"All too often, and everywhere," he said, "those most in need of our help are unable to be heard."
Then speaking directly to the immigrants, the Pope recognized the "great personal cost" many have paid to immigrate here, "in the hope of building a new life."
"Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face," he encouraged.
Francis entreated them to remember that "like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation."
"Please," he said, "you should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land. I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood."
The Pope told them they are "called to be responsible citizens," and repeated the phrase again: "You are called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute — as did those who came before, with so much effort — to contribute fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live."
The Pope noted particularly the "vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited."
"By contributing your gifts," he said, "you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within."
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