Love each other and our planet. Like many Texans, both Catholic and otherwise, I listened closely to the hopeful yet cautionary message that Pope Francis delivered Wednesday on the south lawn of the White House.
His message was very clear: Keep it simple. For the approximately 8 million Texas Catholics and millions of others in our state from different faith traditions, we should heed his advice. Too often, politicians use religion to demonize certain ideas or people but ignore what Pope Francis asks us to do, “protecting the vulnerable” and “committing ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.”
I stood on the White House grounds alongside my sister as the grateful children of immigrants — thankful for our great nation and grateful that our mother, who joined us for this historic event, came from Mexico with her parents in search of the American dream. Today, as in our past, our country and our state continue to rely on immigrants. While we benefit from their hard work in the form of lower costs for food, housing and the many services they provide, some politicians fan the flames of hate. And while immigrant hunger and entrepreneurial spirit has built this country, politicians want to change the rules to reverse centuries-old constitutional birthright protections for vulnerable children. Instead of finding a commonsense, humanitarian way to bring about reform, politicians prefer to demonize immigrants by attempting to build bigger walls between the United States and Mexico.
And what of our common home? We are each on this precious earth a very short time, but as Pope Francis asks, what will we leave to our children? It should be a simple matter to make sure that we can breathe the air and drink the water. Yet when we ignore the fact that we are making the earth less and less habitable, it is the most vulnerable who will suffer the effects of dirty air and severe weather. It has been suggested that the pope’s comments on climate change are political, but it is not political for His Holiness to address the suffering caused by denial and disregard for our planet’s sustainability.
As chair of the International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee in the Texas House, I have heard from faith leaders, military experts and top scientists, all of whom have testified that climate change is real, man-made and damaging our common home. We should listen to what Pope Francis, the humble pontiff from Argentina, urges us to do and act now to make sure that the generations that follow will be able to “know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all His children.”