(Source: CD/Vatican News)

In his first public address as US president-elect, Joe Biden on Saturday declared it was “time to heal in America”.

His words, delivered in a parking lot in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, came as incumbent President Donald Trump refused to concede and said he will press ahead with legal fights against the outcome.

Biden’s victory on Saturday in Pennsylvania put him over the threshold of the 270 Electoral College votes he needed to clinch the presidency.

US Catholic Bishops: “We thank God for the blessings of liberty. The American people have spoken”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement in which USCCB president José H. Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, congratulated president-elect Biden and Senator Kamala D. Harris, who as Gomez recalled “becomes the first woman ever elected as vice president”.

The Archbishop of Los Angeles said on behalf of his brother bishops: “We thank God for the blessings of liberty. The American people have spoken in this election”.

“Now is the time for our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and to commit themselves to dialogue and compromise for the common good”, Gomez continued in his statement.

The USCCB president called on Catholics to live out their “special duty to be peacemakers, to promote fraternity and mutual trust, and to pray for a renewed spirit of true patriotism in our country”.

For his part, Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich encouraged citizens “to remember that our strength in America lies in our unity”.

“We pray that the Lord will enlighten and sustain those elected in their service to all the people of our country”, Cupich said in his post-election statement.

“Let us also ask God to free our hearts of regrets and resentments, of pride and contemptuousness”, the cardinal continued.

“Particularly in this time of pandemic, we must set aside whatever partisan concerns have divided us and turn our energy and passion to serving the common good. As Pope Francis has said, “God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’, but only ‘us'”.

Biden pledges to work for unity

Speaking directly to all Americans, Biden pledged that as president he will seek to unify the country and “marshal the forces of decency” to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuild economic prosperity, secure healthcare for American families and root out systemic racism.

And in words addressed directly to the 70 million Americans who cast ballots in support of Trump, some of whom took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate against the results, he said, “For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple times myself.

“But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again”.

He also thanked Black voters, saying that even at his campaign’s lowest moments, the African-American community stood up for him. “They always have my back, and I’ll have yours”, he said.

Kamala Harris makes history

Joe Biden was introduced by the woman he has chosen to be vice-president, US Senator Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman, the first Black American and the first American of Asian descent to serve in the country’s No. 2 office.

“What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president”, Harris said.

Congratulations from abroad

Congratulations for Biden and Harris poured in from abroad, including from conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There were isolated instances of Trump and Biden supporters confronting each other, as that which occurred between two groups of about 100 each in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but there were no immediate reports of the violence many had feared.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.