Pope Francis to speak before U.S. Congress on Sept. 24, will be first pontiff to do so

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The trailblazing Pope Francis is set to make history, again.

On Sept. 24, the pontiff is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress, becoming the first one to do so.

House Speaker John Boehner made the announcement at a news conference, then issued a statement expressing gratitude that the pope had accepted his invitation to appear before a joint meeting of the House and Senate.

The pope is scheduled to make his first papal visit to the United States this fall, with other stops in New York and Philadelphia.

Earlier this year, 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 was planning to address Congress and to visit the White House during a trip to the country’s capital in the fall.

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Auza told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) 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.

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 that he hopes to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay this year, as well as the Central African Republic and Uganda.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi praised the news that the pontiff would be addressing Congress.

“We are honored and overjoyed that Pope Francis, the first pontiff born in the Americas, has accepted our invitation to address a Joint Meeting of Congress during his upcoming visit to the United States," Pelosi, of California, said in a statement.

“We are eager to welcome His Holiness to the U.S. Capitol and we look forward to hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace.”

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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