His plea on immigration received frequent applause mostly from Democrats but also from Republicans among the lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and other dignitaries packed inside the House of Representatives chamber to hear the first address by a pope
Pope Francis beseeched Americans to end hostility toward immigrants in a historic speech before the U.S. Congress on Thursday, weighing in forcefully on a divisive issue that is stirring debate in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Bringing a message that America's power and wealth should be used to serve humanity, the 78-year-old pontiff said the United States must not turn its back on "the stranger in our midst."
"Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility," Francis told the Republican-led Congress a day after he met with Democratic President Barack Obama.
Francis, born in Argentina to an Italian immigrant family, delivered a wide-ranging speech that addressed issues dear to liberals in the United States but also emphasized conservative values and Catholic teachings on the family.
The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics called for a worldwide end to the death penalty, which is still used in 31 of the 50 U.S. states, while advocating a more equitable economy to help people "trapped in a cycle of poverty" and a greater effort against climate change driven by human activities.
The pope later flew to New York, where he was greeted by crowds at John F. Kennedy International Airport and will lead evening prayer services at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Francis on Friday is due to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York and to celebrate an open-air Mass in Philadelphia on Sunday.
His plea on immigration received frequent applause mostly from Democrats but also from Republicans among the lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and other dignitaries packed inside the House of Representatives chamber to hear the first address by a pope to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.
Harsh rhetoric toward illegal immigrants has featured heavily in the race for the Republican nomination for the November 2016 presidential election.