The Vatican on Tuesday released Pope Francis' schedule for his September visit to the United States, where he will spend five days and address a joint meeting of Congress on Sept. 24.
“It is with humility and deep gratitude that we will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the U.S. Capitol in September for a Joint Meeting of Congress," Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "His visit to the U.S. Capitol is unprecedented, and it is with open ears and hearts that we will welcome his address to the Congress." In March 2014, Boehner invited the pontiff to address Congress, and the Vatican officially accepted the invitation in February 2015. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also welcomed his visit, noting in a Tuesday statement, "Ever since his inauguration in 2013, Pope Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of religious affiliation, to be instruments of God’s peace."
Francis will depart Rome on Saturday, Sept. 19, and his first stop will be Havana, Cuba. He will celebrate Mass and conduct a "courtesy visit" with Cuban President Raul Castro and other leaders. Pope Francis played an integral role re-establishing relations between Cuba and the U.S. in January.
After traveling to Santiago, Chile, the pope will arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Washington around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22. The next day he will participate in a welcome ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House and conduct a "courtesy visit" with President Barack Obama. Following a meeting with U.S. bishops, the pontiff will celebrate Mass at 4:15 p.m. at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast D.C.
On Thursday, Sept. 24, around 9:20 a.m., Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress, the first time the leader of the Catholic Church has addressed Congress.
Pope Francis' visit to the District of Columbia presents a unique challenge to the law enforcement agencies in the District and at the Capitol. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin told appropriators in March to expect a "mass of humanity" to descend upon the District for his visit, noting the visitors will likely exceed those associated with presidential inaugurations. Larkin also noted the Capitol Police may be asked to contribute personnel as the pope visits New York and Philadelphia, since their officers are familiar with securing large-scale events.
Boehner noted the "large public interest" in the pontiff's visit in his statement and said congressional officials are working to make Francis' address accessible to the public. "The U.S. Congress is making the appropriate preparations to reflect the magnitude of his visit to the Capitol and ensure his message can be heard by all Americans,” Boehner said.
Following the congressional address, the pope will visit St. Patrick Catholic Church in Northwest D.C., and Catholic Charities, where he will also meet with some of D.C.'s homeless population.
Francis will depart for New York City around 4 p.m. that day. On Sept. 25 he will visit the United Nations, conduct an inter-religious meeting at Ground Zero, meet with children and migrant families, and hold mass at Madison Square Garden.
Then next day he will head to Philadelphia, where he will meet with families and other immigrants. On Sept. 27 he will meet with bishops, visit prisoners in a local correctional facility, and meet with the organizing committee and volunteers who helped coordinate his visit. The pontiff is scheduled to arrive back in Rome on Monday, Sept. 28.
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