Pope Francis was at the nation's Capitol Thursday morning to deliver a historic address to a joint session of Congress.
The Pope discussed climate change, the Syrian refugee crisis, immigration and other topics.
While speaking about immigration, the pope said immigrants should be treated compassionately.
"On this continent," he said, "thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is that not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation."
Pope Francis also spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty and the importance of defending life at "every stage of development" and tackling poverty.
"I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty," Francis said. "They too need to be given hope."
On the issue of climate change, Francis stressed that "environmental deterioration is caused by human activity."
"I am convinced that we can make a difference," he said. "Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies."
Read Pope Francis' full speech to Congress here.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church was invited to give his speech before Congress, the first such address in American history, by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who is Catholic.
Pope Francis spoke to Congress as part of his first-ever trip to the United States, which will also include an address before the United Nations. Francis arrived in United States for his six-day visit on Tuesday. He visited Cuba prior to reaching the United States.
UPDATE (6:18 p.m.): Reaction to the pope's address to Congress and his visit to the United States has been pouring in, including comments from some members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation. Here's a roundup of the reaction:
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin:
There was a huge crowd gathered at the White House yesterday to welcome Pope Francis, the first visit by a pope in many years to the United States, and Pope Francis' first visit to our country. We were waiting and waiting and up he drove in his little Fiat car, as a passenger in the back seat. What a reminder it was as to why this pope is so different and so beloved. He is a humble man. He lives in a simple room; he decided he wouldn't take the palatial papal apartment that popes have had in the past. He really has reached out to the church and to others, saying let's reach out and help the poor among us, and show by our lives that we really do care. He brought that message to Capitol Hill.
The statement he gave us was less than an hour in length--he struggled with English, not his first or even his second language--but the message came through loud and clear. A message that this pope has lived in his life and is daring us to live in our lives: to care for those who need help, to deal with the issues of income inequality for families, to be thoughtful when it comes to bringing peace to this world, and not to ignore what's happening with climate change and global warming to work to make sure that the next generation has a safe Earth to live on.
This pope's brief visit here, I think, is going to be an inspiration to many of us to work harder to make the United States and the world a better place.
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL,2):
I was honored to witness history today in the Pope's joint address to Congress. Of his many profound statements, I was most touched by his call for an end to the arms trade in the pursuit of global peace and the preservation of human life. It's a message that is particularly resonant here at home as we grapple with unprecedented levels of gun violence in America. I hope that his message will inspire my colleagues in Congress to confront our gun violence problem through meaningful gun reform that balances our Second Amendment rights with the rights of all Americans to live free from the threat of gun violence.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4):
The Pope delivered a message that we in Congress simply cannot. He reminded us of the Golden Rule and the yardstick by which we will be judged. He reflected back to us the highest moral ideals of our nation. Without lecturing or preaching, he reminded us that our faith and our actions must be in sync.
I try to push back on Donald Trump and others who attack Latinos and immigrants or women or Muslims or the poor - sometimes on the floor of the House. But I cannot speak as simply and as powerfully as the Pope can. Today, someone stood up for the people in my community and the message will definitely sink in. I think every Member of Congress will have to think twice before calling all immigrants drug mules or denying climate change or cutting help for working families or labeling children seeking asylum as criminals.
If Congress had a daily reminder of the Golden Rule, this would be a better country.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL,11):
Pope Francis has energized people across the country and the world with his message of stewardship of the earth and compassion for all mankind. It's a message that is sorely needed in Congress. I am especially pleased that he brought up issues like income inequality, caring for the environment, and treating immigrants with compassion.
It's important for all elected officials to remember why we take these jobs - to serve our community and our fellow man, and do our best to lift up all people. The Pope challenged us to renew a 'spirit of cooperation' to meet those goals, I hope my colleagues in Congress will join me in accepting that challenge.
Members of the local immigrant and faith community are also reacting to the pope's message.
Immigrant and faith community leaders are set to hold a prayer vigil Friday morning at an immigration detention center in Illinois to mark Pope Francis' visit to the United States and show their support for his "call for global acceptance towards migrants and refugees."
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants are leading the vigil, which will take place at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Broadview.
Similar immigration-focused prayer vigils are expected to take place Friday across the country.
"There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and they have overcome incredible hardships to settle in the U.S.," ICIRR said in a statement. "These millions of people have successfully established stable families and livelihoods in this country, but they also live in constant fear of illegal detainment, mass deportation, and family separation. ICIRR, in solidarity with millions of other Americans, will pray this Friday that the U.S. government hears Pope Francis' message. It is time for the U.S. to work towards a 21st century immigration system that is worthy of the people who make up this country."