State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford at the White House during his visit to see Pope Francis meet with President Barack Obama. | Submitted photo.

It was an honor to join with others to welcome Pope Francis at the White House last Wednesday and to witness the first address of a Pope to the United States Congress on last Thursday.

As a Roman Catholic who once studied to be a Catholic priest, I have been excited since Pope Francis took over as the leader of the one billion Roman Catholics in the world. I have also been hopeful that he would challenge the leaders of the church and her followers to be stronger voices for fairness and justice in the world.

The many problems in the world today are the result of evil and hate amongst humanity. The Catholic Church has a moral obligation and responsibility to teach about, and then confront, hate and evil. The Church must also be united with other faiths to fight for equality and justice, praying for a better world.

Of the 1 billion Catholics in the world, 25 percent are of African descent, and 3 million are African Americans. With 69.4 million members, the American Catholic church is the largest religious body in the United States, comprising 22 percent of the population.

With tributes to Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, Pope Francis concluded his speech to Congress on Thursday with these words:

“It is my desire that this [American] spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.”

The Pope’s outgoing leadership shows him to be a moral leader with a conscience, working to make the world a better place for all. After all, less evil and hate make it easier to be a Catholic following Christ.

It is my hope that while the Pope is spreading the Good News in America, that he challenge the consciences of all people to work for a fairer system so we may educate children in America equally.

I believe that opportunity to a high quality education that is equal and is proven to meet the needs of our children will help to eliminate much of the evil and hate.