Christian Leaders Ask House and Senate Leadership: 'Will you Listen to Pope Francis and Address Poverty in Budget Talks?'
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2015
The coalition's representatives met with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Sens. Mark Warner, Chris Coons, Robert Casey, andTim Kaine; and senior staff from the office of House Speaker John Boehner.
The faith leaders commended Congress for the plan that was emerging that day to continue funding for the government until mid-December, thus averting any immediate government shutdown.
They also expressed their appreciation for the news that Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are open to meeting with President Obama for negotiations on a longer-term budget compromise.
The Circle of Protection is a broad coalition of over 100 national faith leaders representing a diverse array of Christian denominations, churches, colleges, and agencies across the country.
The Circle will continue to meet with key congressional and administration officials to ensure that Francis' call to care for the most vulnerable of the world's people is reflected in real legislative action.
During the meetings, the Circle stressed the importance of replacing the so-called "sequester" because of the threat it poses to programs assisting poor and vulnerable Americans. They also called for the protection and extension of the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. And they urged the members to pass a strong child nutrition bill and the Global Food Security Act before the end of the year.
As Pope Francis reminded Congress during his address to them last week, "The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts."
The Circle of Protection is composed of Christian leaders who are heads of denominations, agencies, and organizations. To learn more, visitwww.circleofprotection.us
QUOTES FROM ATTENDEES:
Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World: "Pope Francis urged Congress to work together and help people in need, and some congressional leaders were clearly moved. Kudos to Speaker Boehner for using his retirement to avoid a government shutdown and get some other legislation passed. He and Senator McConnell are talking with President Obama about a bipartisan budget framework for the next two years, and the two political parties seem close to agreement on the child nutrition bill."
Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals: "By his words and actions Pope Francis reminded all Americans of our responsibility and privilege of embracing our most vulnerable neighbors, including immigrants and those struggling with poverty or disabilities. We are encouraged that our leaders have heard the call, and we pray for them as they work together to increase help and opportunity for hungry and poor people at home and abroad."
Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, Director, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative: "The nation's budget functions as a thermometer that indicates the overall priorities and health of a nation. Spurred by the Christian faith-rooted values of caring, justice, and goodwill, as held dearly by Christians in churches far and near, and sparked by the thoughtful vision and compassionate voice that Pope Francis shared with Congress, we called on Congressional leadership to function as moral thermostats who boldly use their wisdom and power to build a budget that prioritizes human dignity, worth, and well-being for everyone and in particular for the poor and vulnerable among us. In fact, our nation's budget must champion the ordinary workers who as Pope Francis said 'strive each day to do an honest day's work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and – one step at a time – to build a better life for their families.' We continue to keep our leaders in our prayers as they work together across party lines to care for all people."
John Johnson, Director of Domestic Policy, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: "The opportunity to pray with our national leaders—Democrat and Republican—for our nation and those in our country and around the world in such great need was for me a profound privilege and a deeply humbling experience. The message of Pope Francis to love one another as ourselves belongs to all Christians and all faiths. The American Spirit, with the care of the Holy Spirit, can immeasurably change the plight of the hungry, sick, orphaned, imprisoned, embattled by war, and the stranger."
Jonathan Reyes, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development: "During his visit to the United States, Pope Francis energized us all, and he spoke very directly to both the very powerful and the very poor among us. Carrying forward the energy around Pope Francis' message, the Circle of Protection seeks to keep those most in need at the center of the conversation in Washington. I think we had a day of very productive meetings that emphasized that the budget is a moral document, and that the funding priorities of our nation must emphasize the needs of families and individuals who continue to struggle to make ends meet."
Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners: "Pope Francis changed the national conversation on so many things. In a joint meeting of Congress, he challenged lawmakers to work together in pursuit of their vocation—which is to achieve the common good; and especially to protect the poor and vulnerable who are often on the margins of society, but whose lives matter as much as every one of us created in the image of God. He reminded us of the biblical challenge the prophets had for all political leaders—that the test of a society's morality is how they treat the most vulnerable, not the most powerful. We have seen how Pope Francis inspired so many Americans, including many members of Congress. Faith leaders are now asking our lawmakers to place a circle of protection around the ones whom Jesus called 'the least of these' and Pope Francis lifted up relentlessly in his historic visit to America."
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches:"Clearly, Pope Francis inspired Members of Congress. They told us so. Translating the Pope's focus on the needs of those who are poor, hurting, and jobless will require concerted action by our elected leaders and it remains uncertain they can do so. All of us need to pray for them and push them."
SOURCE Circle of Protection