Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio on Thursday extended an open invitation to Pope Francis to address a joint meeting of Congress.
Boehner, a Catholic himself, sent a letter to the Vatican requesting that the pope visit the Capitol.
"The Holy Father’s pastoral message challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties," Boehner wrote. "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."
Pope Francis has been much-discussed in political circles for his comments that capitalism and the wealthy have left behind the poor. Boehner referred to those comments in his statement, making the case for why the pope should see fit to address Congress by noting that Americans value the pope's message of human dignity, freedom and social justice.
"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," Boehner said in the statement.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also a Catholic, said in a statement that she was pleased with Boehner's invitation.
"I had the privilege of attending His Holiness' inauguration at the Vatican and was inspired by his message of peace, compassion, and brotherhood," the California Democrat said. "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."
The invitation comes on the day of Pope Francis' first anniversary of being elected to succeed Benedict XVI.
A request to comment on the invitation was not immediately returned by the Vatican.