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Pope Francis to Give Speech to Congress

New online Boehner short film features football coach Gerry Faust's advice to the Ohio Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
New online Boehner short film features football coach Gerry Faust's advice to the Ohio Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio announced that Pope Francis will address Congress on Sept. 24.  

Francis will be in Philadelphia in late September for a global conference on Roman Catholic family values.  

“It is my great privilege to announce that His Holiness Pope Francis will visit the United States Capitol on Thursday, September 24, 2015,” Boehner announced Thursday, noting it would mark the first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress.  

“It will be a historic visit, and we are truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement.  

The speech to a joint session will be the day after Yom Kippur, even though the House is scheduled to be in recess surrounding the Jewish High Holy Day.  

“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds,” Boehner added. “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.”  

Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Catholic, each welcomed the idea of the visit last year. Catholics make up about 30 percent of Congress. That includes 3 of every 8 freshmen and 4 of the 9 top leaders: Boehner, Pelosi and Majority Whip Steve Scalise in the House, and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin in the Senate.  

Pelosi issued her own statement pointing out Francis is “the first pontiff born in the Americas.”  

“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,” the California Democrat said. “In the spirit of the namesake of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ universal message of love and compassion speaks to millions around the world. We are eager to welcome His Holiness to the U.S. Capitol and we look forward to hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace.”  

The news comes as Democrats are grappling with Boehner’s invitation to have Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress amid a dispute with the Obama administration.  

Francis, who has made headlines for moderated social positions, could speak to the issue of American immigration policy, something Congress continues to spar over . The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly supports President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration  and has for years urged Congress to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul that would allow immigrants here illegally to earn legal status.  

David Hawkings contributed to this report.

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