Pope Francis was on a tight schedule during his Capitol Hill visit Thursday, his coordinates obsessively orchestrated and timed to a T.
But after his speech to a joint meeting of Congress, en route from Statuary Hall to the Speaker's Balcony to address the masses on the West Lawn, he paused for an important bit of business. Surrounded by security, religious officials and lawmakers, the 78-year-old Vatican leader stopped to bless the 14-day-old baby girl of Kristene Blake, Speaker John A. Boehner's director of scheduling, and Nate Blake, who works for the House Rules Committee.
Eloisa Rosario Blake — Ella for short — was born on Sept. 10, a spokeswoman for the speaker's office confirmed to CQ Roll Call.
Film footage showed Francis traversing Statuary Hall with a security detail and congressional escorts — among them Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — when he came across Kristene Blake, holding Ella in her arms.
The group paused for several moments as Boehner, Pelosi, Biden and others looked on; security officers held contain the impromptu huddle and keep interlopers from getting too close.
This wasn't the pope's first spontaneous gesture of kindness toward a child during his short time in Washington, D.C., this week. On Wednesday, he stopped along the papal parade route to embrace 5-year-old Sophie Cruz, whose parents are undocumented immigrants. Cruz ended up being the special guest of Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., at Francis' congressional address.
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