South Carolinians make pilgrimage to hear Pope Francis challenge Congress

VIDEO: Pope Francis departs Washington, D.C.
Photo Source: CNN/Pool
Photo Source: CNN/Pool
Photo Source: CNN/Pool
Photo Source: CNN/Pool

WASHINGTON, DC (WCSC/WIS) - Pope Francis ended his two-day stay in Washington, D.C. with strong words to both houses of Congress, charging them to live -- and govern -- by "The Golden Rule."

Massive crowds at the Capitol formed, South Carolinians among them, to hear the Pope speak to Congress before leaving for the next leg of his U.S. trip.

One of the South Carolinians who gathered was Rep. Joe Wilson.

On a shelf, amid thousands of mementos of Wilson's time in Congress, is a reminder of another Pope's visit to the United States and South Carolina.

"In 1987, Pope John Paul II came to Columbia," Wilson said. "He came as a sign of ecumenism and outreach. And now today, I was really grateful to be here with Pope Francis. His message of importance of life, importance of families, it means so much to have him here."

People in the crowd, traveling from South Carolina and all over the nation to see the pope, backed up Wilson's feelings.

"Just seeing the Pope, looking at him, it was so amazing," Ainsley Gossett, who traveled from South Carolina, said.

"It was amazing to be a part of it, to see the Pope and hear people clapping at different things," Christine Bervid, who watched the Papal address, said.

Jackson Gossett also traveled from the Palmetto State.

"He addressed a bunch of major issues going on in the church right now," Gossett said. "We hear about them at church, actually hearing it from the Pope is really cool, too."

Those issues Pope Francis spoke about ran on both sides of the political spectrum.

He stood by traditionally conservative, Catholic values on traditional families and marriage, clashing with previous comments he's made to welcome LGBT Catholics back to the church.

But he also swung far to the left, calling on a global abolition on the death penalty, and he continued to push for action on climate change, framing environmental stewardship as a job creator.

"I didn't see it as political," Wilson said. "He gave his heartfelt views and many of us have equal heartfelt views."

Francis also gave a charge to Congress on the refugee crisis in Europe, calling on lawmakers to see faces, not numbers, and said treat the refugees the way Congress would want to be treated.

The Pope continues his U.S. tour with stops in New York and Philadelphia.

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