Pope Francis planning to address joint session of Congress, organizer says

Pope Francis is planning to address a joint session of Congress and visit the White House during a trip to Washington, D.C., in September, one of the archbishops organizing the pontiff’s trip said.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Sunday that the pope is projected to arrive in Washington on Sept. 22 as part of a three-city U.S. tour that includes New York and Philadelphia.

Francis will visit the White House on Sept. 23 and celebrate Mass at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception later that same day, Auza added.

“And we might say really the highlight of the Washington visit might be his speech to the joint-meeting of Congress, so the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Auza told CNA.

“But these are just proposals. At the end of February there will be the first organizational visit (from a Vatican delegation), and then we will see what we could really fill in,” the archbishop added, according to CNA.

Last March, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited the pope to address a joint meeting of Congress.

“Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service,” Boehner said in a statement.

Boehner said the pope’s call to protect the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished and the unborn “has awakened hearts on every continent.”

“The Holy Father’s pastoral message challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties,” Boehner added. “His address as a visiting head of state before a joint meeting of the House and Senate would honor our nation in keeping with the best traditions of our democratic institutions. It would also offer an excellent opportunity for the American people as well as the nations of the world to hear his message in full.”

President Obama last March met with the pope at the Vatican, where they discussed foreign policy, income inequality and social issues.

Obama told reporters that "the largest bulk of the time" was spent discussing two central concerns of the pope: growing inequality and "how elusive peace is around the world."

Obama said the meeting was a "great honor" and that he was "incredibly moved” by the pope’s compassion and “his message of inclusion."