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Pope Francis makes historic speech to US Congress

24 September 2015, 18:53

Washington - Pope Francis on Thursday began his historic speech before the US Congress, addressing hundreds of lawmakers one day after his talks with President Barack Obama at the White House.

It was the first time the leader of the Roman Catholic Church has addressed a joint meeting of Congress.

At the start of a speech expected to last about 40 minutes, the 78-year-old Argentine pontiff called for vigilance against "all types of fundamentalism."

"We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind," Francis said.

"A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms."

He also hailed slain US president Abraham Lincoln as a "guardian of liberty," and lauded assassinated US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, saying his "dream continues to inspire us all."

Thousands of people gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Francis after the speech. They applauded loudly after he mentioned King.

Adele Mathews, who made her way into the city with her three children before dawn, told AFP she hoped to catch a glimpse of the pope after his speech.

"He will make a big difference -- maybe more people will listen," she said.

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