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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Why the Pope’s Visit Matters

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The first Papal address to Congress shouldn’t go unnoticed — regardless of one’s religious or ideological beliefs. Those aren’t just my words, but the words of advisors who — regardless of their own faiths, or lack thereof — believe the Pope’s visit to the United States and his rallying cry to a notoriously divided Congress are, well, “good.”

After all, Pope Francis is a world leader, says Leon LaBrecque, a planner in Troy, Michigan, a Catholic who admits that he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the Pope on all issues. The pope “has the right (and I would think he feels the duty) to remedy what he sees as social problems affecting all people,” he says.

On addressing Congress, “Why wouldn’t Congress hear the point of view of a religious leader of 70 million Americans and over 1.2 billion people worldwide?” LaBrecque asks rhetorically. “It is more evidence that the world is flatter and more open than it ever was.”

Indeed, while not being a “very religious man,” another planner relays that the pope has never failed to impress in his ability to reach a “wide” audience. Pope Francis “is talking about things other than religion, and he is a well-educated man on the environment and the world economy.”

Planner Patricia Kane in Farmington, Conn., adds that advisors care about the Pope’s visit “because many of our clients care. What interests our clients should also interest us.”

The expression that timing is everything isn’t lost on the Pope’s visit to what he so proudly proclaimed in his opening remarks to Congress is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Just as Pope Francis was addressing Congress — of which 166 members out of 535 are Roman Catholic — headlines spread the horrid news that more than 700 hundred people lost their lives during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Meanwhile, lawmakers and world leaders are embroiled in addressing challenges at the forefront of the Pope’s rallying cry — climate change, the Syrian migrant crisis, immigration reform, the fight against poverty and Wall Street reform.

Let’s not forget the political divide over defunding Planned Parenthood that still keeps open the potential for a U.S. government shutdown.

On their role as lawmakers, Pope Francis told members of Congress that “legislative activity is always best based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened.”

Said the Pope: “The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States.”

Congress can’t seem “to do their jobs,” one planner said. “Hopefully [the pope] can make them realize they should be working together rather than acting like school children. Go Pope!”

A believer in manmade climate change, the Pope called “for a courageous and responsible effort for us to ‘redirect our steps,’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States — and this Congress — have an important role to play.”

(Recent Pew Research found 46% of Americans say global warming is “a very serious problem,” up 13 points since 2013).

As Americans for Financial Reform points out, the Pope noted in his Encyclical on the environment, he condemned the way governments responded to the 2008 financial crisis. “Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system,” the pope said, “only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery.”

The crisis, he added, should have been treated as “an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth.”

During his Thursday address, the Pope told lawmakers that “if politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

Politics is, instead, he continued, “an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.”


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