Pope Benedict XVI, in an inspiring message delivered at the White House on Wednesday, reminded all Americans of the price of freedom.
"Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — 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 towards 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," the pope said, according to a White House transcript.
The pope's visit, which will conclude on Sunday, provides a natural platform for the pontiff to add his perspective to issues of the day. Benedict told reporters he intends to raise the issue of immigration, noting he is particularly concerned about families that have been separated by immigration policies and border violence.
The visit, which includes numerous meetings with Catholic clergy, educational leaders and representatives of other faiths, will be capped by a pilgrimage to Ground Zero, where the pontiff will offer a prayer and a papal Mass in Yankee Stadium.
The pope's visit is largely about spreading a message of hope and a call for human dignity.
While en route to Andrews Air Force base, the pontiff took on one of the great challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church: the clergy sex abuse scandal. "We are deeply ashamed," the pope said. "We will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future."
Sexual abuse of children also occurs in many other faith communities, educational settings and community groups. Benedict elected to take on the issue directly, and expressed the Roman Catholic Church's remorse and commitment to "heal this wound."
Credit Pope Benedict XVI for his candor and his deep commitment to the spiritual needs of the country's 65 million Catholics, as well as all people who espouse faith and champion freedom. May his visit remind all Americans of their ongoing commitment to justice and human rights across the globe.