BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BNG) — Pope Francis’ address to Congress today included a unifying message for Christians. In his address, the pontiff cited Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King Jr. as primary examples of Christians who upheld social justice, liberty, plurality and non-exclusion.
They were woven into a larger appeal by Francis that the United States embrace undocumented immigrants, work against income equality and protect the environment.
“Pope Francis chose to weave the examples of three exemplary American Christians into his address” said Steven Harmon, visiting associate professor of historical theology at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity. “I think this is … significant.”
Day was a Catholic social activist who championed labor and anti-war causes in the 20th century. Merton was a Catholic monk known in part for his interfaith work, especially between Christianity and Eastern religions. And King was a Baptist pastor and leader of the American civil rights movement.
Harmon said their mention by Francis is a powerful moment in the movement to create harmony among Christian traditions.
“The pope is commending a Baptist as an example of the lived Christian life,” Harmon said. “Baptists can learn from this and recognize non-Baptist Christians as saintly models for our living of the Christian life, too — as indeed many Baptists have already been doing.”