Pope Francis was invited by Speaker of the House John Boehner to address a joint meeting of Congress last year. Boehner announced February 5th that His Holiness had accepted and will speak on September 24th. Francis will be the first Pontiff to address Congress.
During his US visit, Francis will visit New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.
Boehner said in a statement “In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another. We look forward to warmly welcoming Pope Francis to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Pope Francis has “renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of their religious affiliation, to be instruments of peace.”
Pope Francis hasn’t shied away from his efforts to promote peace, recently playing a key role in normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba—relations that were basically non-existent after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
The Holy Father has re-energized a Roman Catholic Church that has been recovering from multiple sex abuse scandals involving priests. Ties to the Eastern Orthodox Church have never been closer. When Francis was installed as Pope back in 2013, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople became the first of his title to attend a Papal installation since the Great Schism of 1054.
Many in the old Protestant and evangelical communities, who have been distrustful of the Holy See in the past, are mostly supportive of Pope Francis and his initiatives; a sure sign of Francis’ continued ecumenical stance. His willingness to bring reform to the Roman Curia and the Vatican Bank has instilled confidence in Catholics, Protestants, and outside observers worldwide.
The Argentinian born Pope, the first Jesuit Pope and the first Pope hailing from the Americas, has also gained a reputation as an advocate for the poor. Francis has taken a hard left away from the corruption-by-riches associated with the Roman Catholic Church, foregoing expensive and elaborate clothing and instead wearing a simple white cassock and old black shoes.
When Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on September 24th he will bring a message of compassion and humility—two characteristics that many Americans believe are sorely lacking in the United States Congress.