More than 85 students and faculty gathered in the Reilly room at Le Moyne College Sept. 24 to watch live video of Pope Francis addressing Congress.

The event was organized by Father David McCallum, SJ, special assistant for mission integration to Le Moyne’s president, Dr. Linda LeMura. Following the pope’s address to Congress, attendees participated in a panel discussion with Dr. Delia Popescu, chair of the department of political science, and Father George Coyne, SJ, McDevitt chair of religious philosophy for the college and former director of the Vatican Observatory.

Students gave their impression of the pope’s address to the panel and brought up a wide range of topics for discussion. One student commented, “It was important that the pope engaged us as young people. and I appreciated the fact that he addressed the issue of refugees.”

Dr. Popescu asked students what point resonated the strongest with them. Students and faculty present agreed that the pope’s comment, “We have all been immigrants at one point,” was a significant statement.

Both Father Coyne and Dr. Popescu pointed out to those in attendance that there was a strategy to the pope’s address and he covered many points of interest, which was not unexpected. “He had a degree of rhetoric,” but I was impressed that his first ten words to Congress included the words, ‘responsibility’ and ‘common good’” stated Father Coyne. “His use of the word ‘dialogue’ was also important — he is talking to everybody. He didn’t want to rattle the cages too much, but he did approach some of the more difficult topics in a clever, strategic way.”

For many attendees, the references the pope made to the impact that four Americans, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton and Abraham Lincoln, had on liberty, human dignity and freedom was surprising and refreshing.

“I think [the pope] showed a deep regard and respect to our core values,” stated Father McCallum in an interview with the Sun. “He used these people as teaching points for liberty and sacrifice… and spoke about how they cared for strangers, for the poor, for those who have dreams… he appealed to all people to work in collaboration for the common good. I felt tremendously moved by his words.”

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