In a rare showing of bipartisanship, U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner and his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, both Catholics, have both issued invitations for Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress.
In a statement, Boehner, a Republican, said, “The Holy Father’s pastoral message challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties. 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.”
Pelosi, a staunch Democrat, issued the following statement, “”Whether inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who cared for all of God’s creation, or by St. Joseph, protector of the church, Pope Francis has lived his values and upheld his promise to be a moral force, to protect the poor and the needy, to serve as a champion of the less fortunate, and to promote love and understanding among faiths and nations.”
If Pope Francis, elected at the age of 76, accepts the invitation, it will be the first time in history that a Pope has addressed a joint session of Congress. Francis has managed to appeal to both liberals and conservatives with a mix of humility and concern for the poor along with affirmations of Catholic doctrine on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and opposition to the ordination of women as priests. But Francis is also taking steps to erase the separation between the Catholic Church and various groups by engaging in interfaith dialogue with American Pentecostals, Orthodox traditions, Judaism, Islam, and atheists.
On March 27, President Barack Obama will be visiting with the Pope at the Vatican.