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Francis turns down Congress leaders' invitation to lunch to honor homeless

Speaker Boehner and Pope Francis in the U.S. Capitol building September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Speaker Boehner and Pope Francis in the U.S. Capitol building September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (2015 Getty Images)

Putting his beliefs where his mouth is, Pope Francis turned down the chance to sit down and break bread with Congressional leaders for a far more appealing lunchtime companion – D.C.’s homeless.

Sometimes referred to as “the slum pope” for his love of and work with the most impoverished, Francis headed to the Charitable Center of St. Patrick’s Parish after his historic address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress instead of accepting an invitation to a luncheon by House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who are both Catholics.

It was no surprise to many observers that the 78-year-old pontiff chose to honor his previous engagement with the homeless.

“Pope Francis is the ultimate Washington outsider. His priorities are not Washington's priorities," John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, to CNN.

"We think we are the center of the world. We are not the center of Pope Francis' world. He is frankly more comfortable in the slums of Argentina than in the corridors of power," he added.

Back in Rome, the pope has sponsored numerous charity auctions for the homeless and built them showers in St. Peter's Square. For his 78th birthday last year, the pope distributed 400 sleeping bags to the city’s homeless.

According to the Washington Post, about 300 clients of St. Maria’s Meals have been invited to the homeless event, including women who have been abused, people with mental illnesses and new immigrants.

"He is a walking, talking parable," said Carr. "This is a pope who looks at the world from the bottom up and from the outside in. I think he brings to Congress and the White House a different perspective than they are used to hearing."

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