Pope Francis will become the first pope to make an address to a joint session of Congress when he visits the United States later this year.
According to a statement released on House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) website, the first pope from the Americas will speak to the 114th Congress on Sept. 24. More from the speaker’s release:
In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. 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.
Last summer, the Vatican confirmed that the pope would come to the U.S. to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which takes place from Sept. 22 through the 27th. Speculation that he could expand his U.S. stay ended when Pope Francis himself said during his visit to the Philippines that he planned to visit New York and Washington D.C. during his late summer trip.
While there is no word as of yet as to the content of Pope Francis’ address, one possible topic he could discuss is the future of the U.S.-Cuba relationship. The pope has played an active role in getting the countries open up dialogue after nearly 60 years of silence in the hopes of reestablishing a working relationship in the future. While he has had largely positive relationship with the U.S., the pope has been a strong critic of some policies held by American politicians. In 2013, Pope Francis slammed the idea of “trickle-down” economics, saying the theory plays a role in the increase of income inequality around the world. The Catholic Church has also criticized President Obama for including coverage for abortions and birth control in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it was reportedly a topic of conversation during the president’s meeting with the pope at the Vatican last year.
Last month, New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan said in a blog post that while the Vatican will not announce any official schedule for the pope’s trip until around March 1, he expects Pope Francis will address the United Nations and make a stop at historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Obviously, there is no word yet on whether His Holiness will visit the White House during his stop in Washington.