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“One of the highlights of my visit is to stand here, before Independence Hall, the birthplace of the United States of America.”
That’s what Pope Francis said in his 2015 visit to Independence Hall.
“It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed,” he said. “The Declaration of Independence stated that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights.”
More than just a statement for America, he said, “Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.”
St. John Paul II even more urgently proclaimed that the founding principles of America perform a vital role in the country and worldwide.
“I say this, too, to the United States of America,” he said, “many other nations and peoples look to you as the principal model and pattern for their own advancement in democracy.”
But he warned: “If an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in calling into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations. The United States possesses a safeguard, a great bulwark, against this happening. I speak of your founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.”
It is hard to imagine higher praise than what he gave our founding documents: “These documents are grounded in and embody unchanging principles of the natural law whose permanent truth and validity can be known by reason, for it is the law written by God in human hearts.”
He summed up what each July 4 celebrates as, “America: may your trust always be in God and in none other.”
This is what every generation of Americans has to do. The signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to found a new nation based on the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
Abraham Lincoln called all Americans “blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence.”
Mother Teresa, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., told America’s leaders what that meant.
“If we remember that God loves us and that we can love others as he loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak – the unborn child – must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for.”
Image: The flag at Haverty Center at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.