Pope Francis to Address Joint Session of Congress

AP Photo/Aaron Favila

During his trip to the United States next September, Pope Francis is planning to address a joint session of Congress as well as visit the White House, according to the Vatican’s permanent observer to the U.N. in New York.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, a native of the Philippines and a member of the organizing committee for the Pope’s U.S. trip, said that the pope is slated to arrive in Washington on September 22, before his other two stops in New York and Philadelphia.

Auza said that Francis aims to visit the White House on September 23 and will celebrate Mass at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception later that same day.

“And we might say really the highlight of the Washington visit might be his speech to the joint-meeting of Congress, so the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Auza said.

He was quick to underscore, however, that “these are just proposals.” Auza said that at the end of February “there will be the first organizational visit (from a Vatican delegation), and then we will see what we could really fill in.”

On board the papal plane from Manila to Rome Monday, Pope Francis also touched on his upcoming visit to the U.S.

“The three cities are Philadelphia, for the meeting of families; New York, I have the date already but I can’t remember, for the visit the UN, and Washington. It is these three,” he said.

“I would like to go to California for the canonization of Junipero, but I think there is the problem of time. It requires two more days,” he added.

“I think that I will do that canonization at the national Shrine in Washington,” he said. “It is a national event. In Washington, (I’m not sure where) there is a statue of Junipero at the Capitol where there is the statue of Abraham Lincoln.” Junipero Serra established a string of missions in California.

Last March 13, House Speaker John Boehner issued an “open invitation” to the Pope to address a joint meeting of Congress.

In a news release, Boehner said that “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 added that Francis’ social teachings, “rooted in ‘the joy of the gospel,’ have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States.”

He also said: “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.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome