Pope Benedict XVI applauded the United States for preserving religious freedom in a historic speech on the White House South Lawn Wednesday morning.
The Pope said, “America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator.”
“Freedom is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience,” he said. “Almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self- discipline, sacrifice for the common good, and a sense of responsibility toward the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one's deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be (inaudible) for the cause of good.”
You can read the Pope’s full remarks HERE.
This visit marks the second trip a pope has ever made to the White House.
Near the beginning of the 21-gun salute ceremony the 9,000 attendees who gathered on the White House’s South Lawn sang “Happy Birthday” to the pontiff, who celebrates his 81st birthday Wednesday. As the end of the event, the U.S. Army chorus preformed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The White House address was the first of several scheduled during the pope’s six day trip to the U.S. The pontiff will conduct open-air masses in Washington and New York, as well as speak to the United Nations and leaders of Catholic colleges.
He will also visit Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack.