Pope Francis will make an unprecedented address to Congress on Sept. 24 during his first visit to the United States, USA Today reports.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Thursday that the pope formally accepted an invitation the speaker extended last year.
No pope or religious leader who serves as a head of state has ever addressed Congress, according to the U.S. House Historian’s Office.
Pope Francis, who was elected the head of the Roman Catholic church in 2013, will visit New York, Philadelphia and Washington this fall during his first visit to the United States as pope.
“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds,” Boehner, who is Catholic, said in a statement. “His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is also Catholic, said in a statement that she was “honored and overjoyed” that Pope Francis would address Congress.”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,” she said.
“From the slums of Buenos Aires to St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis is moving the hearts of millions and inspiring a new generation with an engaging and compelling style,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
According to the Pew Research Center, about three-in-ten lawmakers, 31%, are Catholic.
The Pope is also expected to meet with Obama at the White House during his trip.
“The president is certainly looking forward to his visit,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Obama praised Pope Francis during remarks Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast.
“Like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable,” Obama said. “He challenges us to press on in what he calls our ‘march of living hope.’ And like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year.”