Pope Francis goes to Washington (and will reach an even bigger crowd than planned)
Catholic News Agency July 9, 2015
The setting for Pope Francis’ address to Congress in September just grew by giant proportions as the public will be able to watch the telecast from outside the U.S. Capitol building. Pope Francis also wishes to make a “brief appearance” on the West Front of the Capitol building after he addresses a joint meeting of Congress on September 24, House Speaker John Boehner’s office announced Wednesday morning. The speech will be broadcast live to the public outside the West Front of the U.S. Capitol building, and an “inauguration-like setting” on the steps of the Capitol is planned for the event, the Washington Post reported. The outdoor telecast will be a ticketed event open to the public. Tickets will be managed by the “Members of Congress and Officers of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Speaker Boehner’s office confirmed to CNA. More information on how to procure tickets will be made available to the public on July 30. In a press release Wednesday morning, Speaker Boehner’s office called the papal visit to Capitol Hill “unprecedented” and “a historic moment for the country.” “We look forward to welcoming Pope Francis and Americans from all walks of life to our Capitol on September 24,” Speaker Boehner’s office said. The address to Congress comes in the middle of Pope Francis’ whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C. from the evening of September 22 until September 24. On the morning of September 23, he will visit President Obama at the White House with a welcoming ceremony for him on the South Lawn. Then he will meet with the U.S. Catholic bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in a prayer service. Later in the afternoon at 4:15 p.m., he will celebrate the canonization Mass of Bl. Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. There are approximately 25,000 seats available for the ticketed mass, which will be celebrated in Spanish. On the morning of September 24, Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress at 9:20 a.m. He will then visit St. Patrick Catholic Church in downtown Washington, D.C. and appear at Catholic Charities, D.C. for their weekly St. Maria’s Meals program for the homeless, before he departs D.C. for New York City, followed by Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Speaker Boehner first extended the invite to Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Vatican accepted the invitation in February. “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,” Speaker Boehner stated in a formal invitation. Both Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed their anticipation of the papal visit. “Pope Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of their religious affiliation, to be instruments of peace. In the spirit of the namesake of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ universal message of love and compassion speaks to millions around the world,” Rep. Pelosi stated. “In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another,” Speaker Boehner stated.