June 19, The Watertown Daily Times on the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s delivery.
For someone who’s 130 years old, the Statue of Liberty is looking pretty good these days.
The iconic symbol of freedom was delivered to the United States through New York Harbor on June 17, 1885. It took more than a year for the pedestal to be completed, and the statue was reassembled and presented to the public Oct. 28, 1886.
The statue was a gift from the people of France. Conceived by Edouard de Laboulaye and designed by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, it took 21 years for the project to become reality.
A poem by Emma Lazarus titled “The New Colossus,” written to help raise funds for the statue’s construction, was added to the structure in 1903. Its sentiment clearly articulates the broad mission of the United States as a destination for those seeking an end to oppression.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
People from throughout the world have taken these words literally and journeyed to the United States in a quest for a better life. This has made us a nation without a common ethnic or racial origin. What we share is a belief in the principles defined in our founding documents.
It’s obvious that we are not yet fully living up to these ideals. The work goes on to guarantee that all citizens enjoy the fruits of liberty equally.
Our unique standing in the global community as that “golden door,” however, remains strong. Our practice of freedom is not perfect by any means. But just like the statue itself, liberty in the United States has aged well.
June 20, Newsday on Pope Francis’ environmental message to the world.
Weaving theology and ethics with scientific evidence to make the case that protecting the environment and vulnerable populations is a moral imperative, Pope Francis has crafted a message the world should hear.
In his urgent call to combat climate change, the pope may not change those minds already certain that humans don’t contribute to global warming, even in his own church. Some scientists who laud his endorsement of the science are critical the pope rejects overpopulation as one cause of the problem.
And while Roman Catholic universities are now more likely to divest fossil-fuel stocks from portfolios, bishops are uncomfortable with the message. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, had a muted response Friday. He called only for a “conversation” on Francis’ specific recommendations that First World nations reduce carbon emissions.
But there is a depth and resonance in Francis’ encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home,” that shouldn’t get lost in the din over specific proposals.
Francis presents a holistic view of our interconnectedness — with each other, with the Earth and with our spirituality — that he fears technology is devaluing. He writes that real human relationships are more important than “contrived ones on the Internet” and that overconsumption and excessive waste mean the next generations “will inherit a world of debris, desolation and filth.”
Francis credits the 13th century poem “Canticle of the Creatures,” written by the man from Assisi whose name the pope chose, that celebrates our shared natural world. He notes that the canticle teaches that “inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”
He quotes the Book of Genesis as authority to say that stripping the Earth of its forests, polluting its waters and destroying its biological diversity are sins. In a call for environmental justice, he says that while the world’s richer nations over rely on gas, coal and oil, it’s the world’s poorer people who suffer most from rising seas and temperatures.
Francis, the Argentine Jesuit who has witnessed the decimation of the Amazon rain forests, seems determined to remake the papacy into a modern and relevant institution.
He used an encyclical, a very traditional method of communicating the church’s view to bishops who must use it to instruct the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. His 178-page letter was then distilled on Twitter with more than 60 tweets in one day, including ones like this: “Earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.”
Francis’ critics counter that he is not a scientist. He is not; but he listened to them. Others dismiss his activism, admonishing him to stay away from political issues. But when did we eliminate morality and religious views from public policy?
Tellingly, this dismissive response comes from those who find a debate on the environment inconvenient but who have used faith to justify state intervention to keep a comatose woman in a vegetative state on life support or to support anti-abortion positions.
Francis shrewdly is not letting politicians be cafeteria Catholics, telling them it’s all one package. As part of his moral ecology, the pope includes in the encyclical the church’s view of protecting all life: “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”
The pope will visit the United States in September to speak to Congress and the United Nations. He wasn’t asked to speak as a theologian, but as a world leader. He’s viewed favorably by 70 percent of Americans, perhaps because his boldness and humility are authentic.