Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Remarks at Independence Hall

For pictures from the governor’s World Meeting of Families 2015 weekend, visit the official Governor Tom Wolf Flickr account.

Philadelphia, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf today welcomed Pope Francis at the airport and attended Pope Francis’ mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Prior to Pope Francis’ arrival at Independence Hall for the Moment of Religious Freedom event, Governor Wolf delivered the following remarks:

Thank you very much, Father, and welcome, everyone. What a joyous day. Welcome to Pennsylvania. All of you back there, too. Welcome. I am so proud to welcome all of you to this great commonwealth, and I am especially grateful to the Holy Father for coming here for these two days to Pennsylvania. By his visit – and by his many actions as Pontiff – he is reaffirming the noble values that this place symbolizes.

Behind me is Independence Hall. This was the home of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for many years. The Liberty Bell once rang out from its tower. The second Continental Congress met here. The Constitution of 1787 was drafted here. This is a place of freedom. It is also a place of welcome.

The Commonwealth whose government met here was founded, as the mayor said, by William Penn. Its very existence was premised on the idea of freedom of conscience. Pennsylvania was established by Penn as a refuge for people who wanted to escape the oppression of the Old World.

It was a place that welcomed people looking for somewhere to worship God in their own way and Pennsylvania grew as a result.

We Pennsylvanians showed that granting freedom of religion was not simply sound from a moral point of view. It was also smart public policy.

Pennsylvania’s economy flourished as a result and so did its religious institutions. This place, Pennsylvania, became a magnet for great leaders with visions that transcended time. As the mayor said, John F. Kennedy spoke here in 1962. Nelson Mandela spoke here. Abraham Lincoln stopped here on his way to his 1861 inauguration. And in fact, as the mayor pointed out, he spoke from that lectern when he delivered the Gettysburg Address just a few miles west of here in 1863.

This is an important neighborhood too. The National Constitution Center is back there. The African American Museum is over here . The National Museum of American Jewish History is over here. And of course the present home of the Liberty Bell is right here.

It is therefore fitting that Pope Francis makes this one of his new world destinations. This is a place of history and significance. But more than that, it is a place of strong values, high ideals and values that pay tribute to the Holy Father’s focus on justice, fairness, openness, and welcome.

Pope Francis reminds us all of what it is to be human in its most exalted ways. And so does this place.

The Holy Father suggests that we should organize our lives in ways that promote fairness and justice. This place tells us that we should govern ourselves according to those very same values.

The Holy Father tells us that the world is potentially very, very noble precisely because it is made up of ordinary souls. This place tells us that a government so founded should aspire to that same nobility.

The Holy Father tells us that we can be better than we often are. This place tells us that our government can be better, too.

So, I am honored and proud to welcome all of you to Pennsylvania and the Holy Father, too. This is a big event for all of us in Pennsylvania, and I know it is a big event for all of you.

In a few moments, Pope Francis will give his message. He will inspire us with his thoughts on freedom and justice and welcome, and he will reaffirm the commitment each of us must make, as he did this morning at mass, to the better world it is our job, individually, to build.

 

*These remarks have been slightly edited for clarity.

For updates on Governor Wolf’s WMOF weekend, follow @GovernorTomWolf on Twitter.

For pictures from the governor’s World Meeting of Families 2015 weekend, visit the official Governor Tom Wolf Flickr account.

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