Pope Francis summoned US lawmakers today to defend and preserve the dignity of all Americans, introducing himself as "a son of this great continent" as he became the first pontiff in history to address a joint meeting of Congress. Entering a House chamber packed with Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officials, and lawmakers of both parties, Francis united the often-warring factions before he opened his mouth as the crowd stood to deliver a standing ovation. The sergeant at arms intoned "Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See," and Francis made his way up the center aisle in his white robes, moving slowly as lawmakers applauded enthusiastically, some inclining their heads in bows.
"Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility," Francis said in his opening remarks. "Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation." "Legislative activity is always based on care for the people," Francis said. "To this you have been invited, called, and convened by those who elected you." The speech is still in progress. (Read more Pope Francis stories.)