In his first major speech on American soil, Pope Francis Wednesday embraced climate change and immigration, but remained silent on such moral issues as abortion and homosexuality.
"Humanity has the ability to work together in building our common home," the Pontiff, 78, told 11,000 people gathered for a welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.
Speaking in English, Pope Francis expressed strong support for President Barack Obama's efforts to combat climate change.
"As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home," he said in remarks reported by The New York Times.
"Mr. President," the Pope said, turning to Obama, "I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution."
He then said that the Earth could still be rejuvenated to benefit future generations.
"To use a telling phrase of the Rev. Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note, and now is the time to honor it," the Pope said.
Regarding immigration, Francis reflected on his own Italian-Argentine background in calling for broader acceptance in the United States.
"As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families," he said.
Pope Francis also hailed America's devotion to religious freedom and liberty. "God bless America," he said at the end of his speech.
In his remarks, Obama thanked the Pontiff for helping to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and praised him for advocating for impoverished people worldwide, the Times reports.
"You shake our conscience from slumber," Obama said. "You call on us to rejoice in good news and give us confidence that we can come together, in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just and more free."
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