Pope to Take His Pulpit Into a House Divided

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 9.56.45 AMCARL HULSE  Thursday, September 24, 2015

Good Thursday morning. The pope can cross off some items from his life list in his first visit to Washington: meeting privately with the president of the United States and riding in the pope mobile around the National Mall, for instance. But today, in his main and historic event, he will try to speak across the widening gap between party lines.

Pope Francis today will be the first pope to address Congress, an event that will be closely watched for the message he imparts to the bitterly divided ranks on Capitol Hill.

Republicans and Democrats have vastly different approaches to addressing immigration and climate change – two issues most on the pontiff’s mind. And the divisions cross more than party lines. An internal conservative rebellion is brewing against Speaker John A. Boehner, a life-long Catholic who will realize a decades-long dream of seeing the pope speak to members of the House and Senate.

If there was ever a group in need of pastoral healing, it could be this Congress, and Pope Francis seems eager to take on the job.

“I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope as a brother of this country to offer words of encouragement to those who are to guide the nation’s political future, in fidelity to its founding basis,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday at the White House.
He did not shy from political matters before his meeting with President Obama, touching on America’s history of welcoming immigrants and encouraging a government response to climate change. The pope’s views on those issues – as well as his more conservative outlook on abortion and other social topics – have sparked suggestions that both sides could simply gravitate to papal positions they agree with and ignore those they oppose.
Mr. Boehner on Wednesday urged his colleagues and Americans to look well beyond political squabbles when listening to the pope.
“The pope transcends all of this,” Mr. Boehner wrote in a blog post. “He appeals to our better angels and brings us back to our daily obligations. The best thing we can all do is listen, open our hearts to his message and reflect on his example.”