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Illinois Congressmen Share Reaction To Pope’s Speech

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Associated Press / NPR
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Pope Francis’s call for a renewed spirit of cooperation in Congress drew praise from members of Illinois’s delegation. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin praised the pope’s address to Congress Thursday, which he says extended a challenge to lead better lives and to help people.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Durbin said. “We are divided on partisan lines and regional lines and so many others. But he’s really begged us all to put that aside, and aspire to some of his values and ideals that he’s spelled out.”

Pope Francis received applause from Republicans opposed to abortion when he told Congress about the responsibility to protect human life at all stages of development. But instead of talking about abortion, the pope discussed the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty, and never directly mentioned abortion in his speech.

Senator Dick Durbin says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had tried to set up two votes on abortion the same week as the pope’s visit, which he called an “obvious ploy” based on an expected papal comment against abortion.

But Durbin says Pope Francis proved to be interested in a wider range of issues, such as immigration reform and climate change.

“I never for a moment doubted his feelings about the issue of abortion and the church’s teaching on the subject. But I think there was more there,” Durbin said. “If Senator McConnell believes that that was the exclusive issue of the day, I think the remarks of the pope will prove otherwise. “

Republican Representative Rodney Davis of Taylorville says he hopes members on both sides of the aisle heed the Pope’s message and decide that working together is better.

“I hope that both parties will step up to the plate, and ensure that we don’t go through another government shutdown,” Davis said. “I know I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself in the next upcoming week.” 

But while they agreed on the pope’s message, Davis and Durbin are far apart on federal funding for Planned Parenthood -- the issue that threatens to lead to a government shutdown. Davis, who voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the House, says he wants to avoid a government shutdown over the issue.

Meanwhile, Durbin supports continued funding and says a shutdown would be the fault of Republicans, especially Texas Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz.