On Thursday September 24, 2015 the Argentinean Pope Francis made history (again) by returning to his home continent and becoming the first Pope in history to address a joint session of the United States Congress.
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The speech was as well-rounded and guarded as one would expect from such a practiced world figure. Pope Francis spent the majority of his speech tackling the issues that most pundits expected him to address (Including the Syrian Refugee Crisis, environmental issues, and the abolition of the death penalty).
However, The Supreme Pontiff had a few surprises up his robes as well.
Midway through his speech, when speaking on the importance that an open dialog plays in global politics, Pope Francis dropped this tantalizingly veiled paragraph into the mix:
From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue -- a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons -- new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).
If John Boehner had not already been crying during the speech, then he certainly would have started after he heard that.
Pope Francis is far too competent as a political orator to explicitly say the word “Iran” when referring to the “efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences”. However, his above comments could only be a brilliantly subtle endorsement for President Obama’s recently ratified Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.
The JCPOA has been a major source of contention in recent months, with conservative US lawmakers, and major pro-Israel interest groups voicing their strong opposition to the plan.
By endorsing the deal Pope Francis is continuing what has become a signature pattern of bucking stereotypes against the religious right rather than siding with them.
An endorsement such as this from a figure such as this should have been a political lightning rod. But the brilliance of Pope Francis as a statesman is once again on display, as he seems to have presented his affirmation so subtly that nobody even noticed.