There has been much media discussion over what the Pope said or did on his brief visit to the United States last month. Some topics drowned in the news coverage of others. However, one thing the Pope was certainly not confused about was his stance on religious liberty. Before Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pope Francis clearly proclaimed:
“One of the highlights of my visit is to stand here, before Independence Hall, the birthplace of the United States of America. It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed. The Declaration of Independence stated that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights.”
“History also shows that these or any truths must constantly be reaffirmed, re-appropriated and defended.”
Concluding his speech, he stated:
“Let us cherish freedom. Freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of each person, each family, each people, which is what gives rise to rights. May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself.”
In so clearly restating the American vision of religious liberty which has existed for over two centuries, Pope Francis reaffirmed the human right of religious liberty, given by God to all people, everywhere. In clearly restating this right, Pope Francis reiterated and reaffirmed an American ideal.
And by reminding us to defend and uphold religious freedom, Pope Francis simply reminded Americans to be American.