Bush op-ed: Pope Francis 'a model of personal holiness'

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said on Tuesday that he tries to follow Pope Francis’s example on issues of morality and leadership.

Bush added that Catholicism has influenced the political principles he espouses while seeking the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination.

“Millions of American Catholics, like me, are excited that Pope Francis is making his first journey to the United States,” he wrote in an op-ed for CNN on Tuesday morning. “In our Holy Father, we have a model of personal holiness and deep concern for the most vulnerable among us.”

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“He reminds us to speak out for the persecuted, advocate for the unborn, comfort the afflicted and welcome the stranger,” the White House contender added.

Bush then argued that Francis’s travels in the U.S. this week offer evidence for religious liberty’s importance in American society today.

“I hope Pope Francis’ visit to the United States is a powerful reminder that in a country as great and diverse as ours, we can protect religious freedom and the right of conscience while respecting those with opposing views,” he said.

“The church that Francis leads never tires of proclaiming the dignity of all people — a truth that is also at the heart of our form of government that pledges liberty and justice for all,” Bush said.

Bush also said on Tuesday that he would use the tenets of Catholicism as a moral compass should he win the Oval Office next year.

“I have witnessed the power of God, through his church, to touch lives and transform the world — both on the world stage and in my own heart,” he said.

Bush’s op-ed appears as Francis visits the U.S. stating Tuesday, including an address to Congress and a state visit with President Obama later this week.

He currently ranks third nationally out of 15 contenders vying for the GOP presidential nomination, with 7.8 percent, in to the latest RealClearPolitics average of samplings.