John Boehner invites Pope Francis to address Congress

A Cardinal is sprinkled with ashes by Pope Francis in the Santa Sabina church in Rome on March 5, 2014, during the Ash Wednesday mass. Max ROSSI/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has extended an open invitation to Pope Francis to address a joint meeting of Congress, the Speaker's office announced Thursday.

"Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service. His tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us--the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished, the unborn--has awakened hearts on every continent," Boehner said in a statement.

If he accepts, he would be the first pope to address Congress.

Although Francis does not have a visit to the U.S. on his schedule at the moment, Catholic publications have reported that he plans to attend the World Meeting of Families, a global Catholic event being held in Philadelphia in late September. The last papal visit was from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, during President Bush's second term.

President Obama is scheduled to meet with the pope in the Vatican in March during a planned trip to Europe. He, like many politicians, has cited the charismatic leader; the president in particular has quoted his exhortations against inequality.

Boehner, who is Catholic, is no different. In his statement announcing the invitation, Boehner said that many people believe the principles of human dignity, freedom and social justice, "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."

Thursday marks the pope's first anniversary of leading the Catholic Church.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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