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Pelosi, Boehner invite Pope Francis to address U.S. Congress

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Pope Francis prays vigil in Saint Peter Square at the Vatican on September 7, 2013. The Poper called for a global day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and against any armed intervention. UPI/Stefano Spaziani | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/cf6e3cf276c8e86e44e0d2b18290baab/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Pope Francis prays vigil in Saint Peter Square at the Vatican on September 7, 2013. The Poper called for a global day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and against any armed intervention. UPI/Stefano Spaziani | License Photo

WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- Pope Francis has received a bi-partisan invitation to become the first head of the Catholic church to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., extended the invitation, Politico reported Friday. They did not suggest a date, leaving the choice to the Vatican.

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"The Holy Father's pastoral message challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties," Boehner said in a statement. "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, like Boehner a Catholic, said the pope has "upheld his promise to be a moral force."

Francis marked the first anniversary of his papacy this week by traveling by bus to a retreat center near Rome, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Since his election to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, Francis has lived modestly, sometimes driving his own car.

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