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Pope Francis to address U.S. Congress in 2015; hopes to visit Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay

Pope Francis hugs a child in Santo Tomas University in Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015.

Pope Francis hugs a child in Santo Tomas University in Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015.

It seems Speaker John Boehner might be getting his wish after all.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who is Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and is organizing Pope Francis’ trip to the United States, said that the Catholic leader is planning to address a joint session of Congress and a visit to the White House during a trip to the country’s capital in September.

He told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Sunday that the pope is expected to arrive in Washington on Sept. 22 as part of a three-city U.S. tour that includes New York and Philadelphia.

Auza said Francis will visit the White House and celebrate Mass at Washington’s Basilica on the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“And we might say really the highlight of the Washington visit might be his speech to the joint-meeting of Congress, to the Senate and the House of Representatives,” he told CNA. “But these are just proposals. At the end of February there will be the first organization visit (from a Vatican delegation) and then we will see what we could really fill in.”

Last March, Boehner (R-Ohio) invited the pope to address 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,” Boehner said in a statement at the time. “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.”

In addition to his planned visit to the United States, Francis said Monday that he hopes to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay this year, as well as the Central African Republic and Uganda.

These trips are still in their planning stages and not confirmed.

Francis disclosed his travel plans during an in-flight news conference Monday on the way home from the Philippines.

Francis said he planned to canonize the 17th-century missionary Junipero Serra, who established nine missions in California.

But he essentially ruled out travelling to El Salvador to beatify slain Archbishop Oscar Romero, saying the ceremony would be celebrated by a Vatican official, as is the norm for beatifications.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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