(CNSNews.com) - In a speech delivered on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday morning, Pope Benedict XVI spoke positively of America's Founding Fathers and lauded the principles they embraced in creating the United States.
The pope's address referenced the Declaration of Independence and drew a parallel between the views of his predecessor, the late John Paul II, and those that former President George Washington expressed in his Farewell Address.
"From the dawn of the Republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the creator," said the pope.
"The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God," he added.
The Holy Father also said that he perceived the "soul" of America to have been forged by a history he viewed as a struggle to bring the nation's founding principles fully into force.
"The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles," he said.
"In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement," the pope said.
In our time, too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideas and aspirations," he added.
Pope Benedict then noted that both John Paul II and George Washington believed that free societies were dependent on the religious convictions and moral rectitude of the people.
"Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II," he said. "In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in Eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows time and again that 'in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,' and a democracy without values can lose its very soul.
"Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent 'indispensable supports' of political prosperity," the pope added.
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