Pope Francis goes to Washington: will Congress listen?

Pope Francis’ address to a joint session of Congress during his U.S. visit in September will be a “wonderful opportunity,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has said.
“It’s an opportunity for him to call our Congressmen to work for the common good and to work for the support of the dignity of every individual,” Archbishop Chaput told CNA in Rome Feb. 5.
He said the invitation to Pope Francis is “a sign of how much Pope Francis is appreciated as a world leader.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the visit on Thursday.
“We’re humbled that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation and certainly look forward to receiving his message on behalf of the American people,” Boehner told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds,” he added in a statement. “His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another.”
President Barack Obama mentioned the papal visit in his Feb. 5 remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast, saying, “like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year.”
The pope will address Congress on Sept. 24.
In November, Pope Francis announced his intention to visit Philadelphia in conjunction with the World Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27.
The gathering is a global Catholic event that seeks to support and strengthen families.
Archbishop Chaput, who will host the meeting, spoke with Pope Francis on Thursday morning.
“He seemed to be very much into coming and very happy about the opportunity, his first visit to the United States,” the archbishop said. “Of course, it’s going to be wonderful for us.”
Pope Francis “was curious about the life of the local Church as well as the World Meeting of Families.”
“He talked more about Philadelphia than he did about the world meeting,” Archbishop Chaput said.
The archbishop and Pope Francis had “a very relaxed and fraternal conversation” during the formal visit at the library of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.
“It was a wonderful blessing for me personally,” Archbishop Chaput said.
The conversation was “more questions about what I thought about things” than the Pope “offering his own opinion,” the archbishop reported, saying this was similar to his meetings with St. John Paul II.
Archbishop Chaput said more work is to be done to prepare for the Eighth World Meeting of Families.
“We don’t have any definitive plans, but I’m sure there’ll be more meetings in Rome. There always are.”
“We still have eight months to go, so there’s quite a bit of time,” he added.
The pope could visit the White House and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
A potential New York City visit would include a visit to the United Nations and perhaps St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s observer to the UN in New York and a member of the organizing committee for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S., told CNA in January.
New York City’s Madison Square Garden is a potential venue for a papal Mass. The Pope could visit Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as take part in an interethnic meeting with representatives of various communities.
However, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia archdiocese stressed that the official schedule has not been finalized.
Archbishop Auza said that an organizational visit from a Vatican delegation will take place at the end of February.

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