WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- Speaker John Boehner extended an invitation to Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress, during his expected visit to the U.S. next year.
Pope Francis, who marked his first anniversary as pope Thursday, is expected to visit Philadelphia September next year for a global conference on families. There has been no official confirmation of the visit by the Vatican.
Aides to Boehner said that the speaker had sent the formal invitation to Vatican City Thursday. They added that if Francis accepts the invitation, it will be the first time a pope will address American lawmakers from the U.S. Capitol.
“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,” said Boehner, in an emailed statement.
In a separate statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was pleased to join Speaker Boehner in extending an invitation to Pope Francis, adding that she has been inspired “by his message of peace, compassion, and brotherhood.”
"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,” Pelosi said.
Both Beohner and Pelosi are Roman Catholic. President Obama is expected to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican in around two weeks.
Here is the entire text of Speaker Boehner's invitation to Pope Francis:
“It is with reverence and admiration that I have invited Pope Francis, as head of state of the Holy See and the first Pope to hail from the Americas, to address a joint meeting of the United States 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.
“His tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us—the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished, the unborn—has awakened hearts on every continent.
“His social teachings, rooted in ‘the joy of the gospel,’ have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom, and social justice.
"These principles are among the fundamentals of the American Idea. And though our nation sometimes fails to live up to these principles, at our best we give them new life as we seek the common good. Many in the United States believe these principles are undermined by ‘crony capitalism’ and the ongoing centralization of political power in the institutions of our federal government, which threaten to disrupt the delicate balance between the twin virtues of subsidiarity and solidarity. They have embraced Pope Francis’ reminder that we cannot meet our responsibility to the poor with a welfare mentality based on business calculations. We can meet it only with personal charity on the one hand and sound, inclusive policies on the other.
“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.
“It is with deep gratitude that I have asked Pope Francis to consider this open invitation on behalf of the Congress and the millions of citizens of the United States we serve.”
[Office of the Speaker of the House]