TIME Religion

Boehner and Pelosi Invite Pope Francis to Congress

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience on March 5, 2014 at St. Peter's square in Vatican City.
Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience on March 5, 2014 at St. Peter's square in Vatican City. Andreas Solara—AFP/Getty Images

Congressional leaders used the occasion of Francis' first anniversary as Pope to invite him to Washington. President Obama is going to the Vatican to meet with His Holiness on March 27

Happy one-year anniversary, Pope Francis: You are invited to come to Congress.

Almost one year to the minute after Pope Francis was named Benedict XVI’s successor, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday afternoon that they were formally inviting the popular Holy Father to address Congress. President Barack Obama is going to the Vatican to meet with His Holiness on March 27, and the Holy See has not announced formal plans to visit the United States. Pope Francis has made it clear that his priorities for international visits are the Holy Land, Asia, and then Africa.

Congress could use some peace-building right about now. Leaders appear divided even on inviting the Pope: Boehner and Pelosi, both Catholics, issued the invitation, but Boehner did not include Pelosi’s name in his announcement of the invitation.

Pelosi’s statement:

“As we approach the first anniversary of the inauguration of Pope Francis, I am pleased to join Speaker Boehner in inviting His Holiness to address a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress.

“I had the privilege of attending His Holiness’ inauguration at the Vatican and was inspired by his message of peace, compassion, and brotherhood.

“Whether inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who cared for all of God’s creation, or by St. Joseph, protector of the church, Pope Francis has lived his values and upheld his promise to be a moral force, to protect the poor and the needy, to serve as a champion of the less fortunate, and to promote love and understanding among faiths and nations.”

Boehner’s statement:

“It is with reverence and admiration that I have invited Pope Francis, as head of state of the Holy See and the first Pope to hail from the Americas, to address a joint meeting of the United States 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.

“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.

“His 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 and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom, and social justice.

“These principles are among the fundamentals of the American Idea. And though our nation sometimes fails to live up to these principles, at our best we give them new life as we seek the common good. Many in the United States believe these principles are undermined by ‘crony capitalism’ and the ongoing centralization of political power in the institutions of our federal government, which threaten to disrupt the delicate balance between the twin virtues of subsidiarity and solidarity. They have embraced Pope Francis’ reminder that we cannot meet our responsibility to the poor with a welfare mentality based on business calculations. We can meet it only with personal charity on the one hand and sound, inclusive policies on the other.

“The Holy Father’s pastoral message challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties. 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.

“It is with deep gratitude that I have asked Pope Francis to consider this open invitation on behalf of the Congress and the millions of citizens of the United States we serve.”

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