Pope at Congress for Historic Speech
Latest developments in Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. All times local:
Speaking to Congress, Pope Francis is calling for an end to the death penalty in the U.S. and across the world.
Francis says that every life is sacred and society can only benefit from rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.
The pope noted that U.S. bishops have renewed their call to abolish capital punishment. That idea is unpopular, however, with many American politicians.
The pontiff did not specifically mention abortion – a particularly contentious issue in Congress at the moment that threatens to force the shutdown of the U.S. government next week.
Still, his remarks referred to the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion. He urged lawmakers and all Americans to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Pope Francis is urging Congress members – and the United States as a whole – not to be afraid of immigrants but to welcome them as fellow human beings.
He says people are not things that can be discarded just because they are troublesome.
The pontiff’s admonition comes as the presidential race is roiled by questions about immigration from Mexico and Latin America, and the nation is weighing how many migrants to accept from wars in the Middle East.
The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina himself, Francis noted that the United States was founded by immigrants, that many lawmakers are descended from foreigners, and that this generation must not “turn their back on our neighbors.”
His plea: “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”
Pope Francis is calling for a “delicate balance” in fighting religious extremism to ensure that fundamental freedoms aren’t trampled at the same time.
He says in his speech to Congress that “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”
He says religious, intellectual and individual freedoms must be safeguarded, while combatting violence perpetrated in the name of religion.
The pope cautions against simplistically breaking the world into camps of good and evil.
Francis has expressed deep concern about the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic extremists, fearing that the Christian presence in the region is risk. He’s dispatched envoys to Iraq with money and other forms of assistance to help refugees.
Pope Francis has opened his historic speech to Congress by describing himself as a “son of this great continent” joined in a common purpose with America.
The Argentine-born pope is the first from the Americas. And his speech to Congress is the first by any pontiff.
A bipartisan group of congressional leaders escorted him up the aisle for his speech in the House chamber, as tens of thousands waited outside.
Pope Francis has arrived in the House chamber for his speech to Congress.
The pontiff walked up the aisle to thunderous applause from standing lawmakers, and paused to shake the hand of Secretary of State John Kerry.
House Speaker John Boehner told lawmakers he had the “high privilege and distinct honor” of presenting the pope.
With a handshake and a smile, House Speaker John Boehner has welcomed Pope Francis to his ornate ceremonial office in the Capitol prior to the first papal address to Congress in history.
The Ohio Republican told Francis, “Your Holiness, welcome, really glad that you’re here.”
Boehner’s eyes moistened as the pope told him he was glad to be there, too.
The two men then sat next to each other, accompanied by Vatican and church officials and Boehner aides.
Boehner told the pontiff that his staff had urged him to wear the green tie he was sporting. That drew a compliment from Francis, delivered through an interpreter.
The interpreter told Boehner, “He says it’s a tie with the color of hope.”
Before the pope’s arrival, Boehner told those waiting with him that the pope’s visit was “a big deal” for him, as a Catholic.
Pope Francis met briefly with House Speaker John Boehner in an opening act of his historic visit to Congress.
Awaiting the pope’s arrival, Boehner repeatedly straightened his tie and shifted from foot to foot, and joked and chatted with reporters about the history of the House furnishings. Their visit lasted only a few minutes. Tens of thousands wait outside, with lawmakers and guests seated in the House chamber for the first speech by a pope to Congress.
The pope greeted well-wishers outside the Vatican’s diplomatic mission on his way to his historic visit to Congress.
As he did Wednesday, Francis lingered with the excited crowd outside the mission, on another sunny day. Tens of thousands await him on Capitol Hill.
The pope shook hands and touched the faces of schoolchildren, dressed up in ties or Sunday dresses. As the pope moved past, one young boy shouted, “Oh yeah! I got a selfie.”
After his speech to Congress, Francis is expected to go to the Hall of Statues, where there is a statue of America’s newest saint, Junipero Serra, whom Francis canonized on Wednesday.
Joined by House Speaker John Boehner, he’ll then offer to the Library of Congress a special edition of the Bible. Then he’s to go to a balcony to greet and offer a benediction to the throngs below.
The Federal Aviation Administration is reminding people that Washington, New York and Philadelphia are no-drone zones during the pope’s visit to the U.S.
The FAA has put in flight restrictions through Sunday. That means flying a drone or unmanned aircraft anywhere in those cities is against the law and may result in criminal or civil charges.
Pope Francis leaves Washington on Thursday for New York and goes to Philadelphia on Saturday.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is bringing Tom Steyer, who’s a California-based environmentalist and top Democratic donor, and Marc Benioff, a business software CEO, to the House gallery for the pope’s speech.
Among other guests, she’s also invited Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union, and Matilda Cuomo, mother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and widow of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Security is tight at the Capitol as crowds gather for Pope Francis’ arrival.
Streets are closed within a three-block radius of the Capitol and police advise visitors to avoid driving to the scene. The city’s subway was packed with riders hours before his speech to Congress but few delays were reported.
Police are visible throughout the Capitol complex and visitors are encountering a series of security checkpoints.
“Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See!”
Those booming words will announce Pope Francis as he arrives for his historic speech as the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.
The man who will perform the ceremonial call is more accustomed to protecting famous people than introducing them.
Paul Irving spent his career in the Secret Service. He was a special agent for 25 years and the service’s assistant director from 2001 to 2008.
Speaker John Boehner chose him as House sergeant-at-arms in 2012.
When he’s not introducing dignitaries before Congress, his main duty is to oversee security in the House side of the Capitol.
Tens of thousands already are gathering on the front lawn of the Capitol to watch the pope’s speech on Jumbotron screens and maybe catch a glimpse of Francis. He is expected to wave from a balcony a few hundred yards away.
Libby Miller of Frederick, Maryland, says her friends all told her she was crazy for schlepping to Capitol Hill with her 4-year-old son, Camden, and 2-year-old daughter, Avery.
She left the house before 5 a.m. and settled into a spot on the lawn by 7:30 a.m., about two hours before the pope’s scheduled arrival. And she was prepared to keep her kids occupied – iPad loaded with games, toy trucks, snacks and a sippy cup.
Miller says she wants her kids to be there for an important moment in history. They won’t understand it now, but she says “they’ll get it eventually.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is marking Pope Francis’ visit to the Capitol in the modern way: on YouTube.
The Kentucky Republican says in a video Thursday morning that Francis’ elevation to pope “heralded a new beginning for Catholics in Kentucky, across America and from every corner of the world.”
McConnell praises the pope’s “unique and engaging style” and says Americans have watched the pope reach new and different audiences, “both from within his flock and far beyond it.”
Joint gatherings of Congress for dignitaries’ speeches are usually a recipe for competing partisan ovations and chummy backslaps and handshakes.
This time, House and Senate leaders have asked lawmakers: Please, not when the pope is here.
The leaders sent an appeal to lawmakers in advance of Pope Francis’ speech Thursday morning, asking them to act with decorum in his presence. Among the no-no’s – reaching out for handshakes or conversation with the pope and those accompanying him as they walk down the center aisle of the grand House chamber.
To drum the lesson in, the leaders’ letter reminded legislators that the historic event will be seen on television “around the whole world and by many of our constituents.”
Leaders have made similar appeals for State of the Union addresses, with little luck.
With his speech Thursday morning, Francis will become the first pope to address Congress. But the list of foreign leaders and dignitaries who’ve done so is long.
The House historian’s office says it’s happened 117 previous times.
Francis won’t be the first religious leader to address the House and Senate. Technically that was Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1991, since the British monarch heads the Anglican Church.
The most addresses to Congress? Three, by both British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The historian’s office lists the first such speech in 1874. That’s when Congress heard King Kalakaua of Hawaii, still an independent kingdom then.
The first speech by a foreign leader to lawmakers was in 1824 by the Marquis de Lafayette, the French general who helped the colonies win independence. But he addressed only the House.
Francis’ speech to Congress is a personal and political coup for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican and Catholic.
Boehner unsuccessfully invited the two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, to speak. He began trying in 1994 during his second House term, organizing a petition by lawmakers saying John Paul II was a `’world leader, ambassador of peace and an important catalyst in the fall of the Iron Curtain.”
Francis is the fourth pope to meet with a president in the U.S., including presidential visits on six separate trips by John Paul II.
The first was Paul VI’s 1965 New York meeting with President Lyndon Johnson. Benedict XVI met President George W. Bush in 2008.
Francis’ coming speech at the United Nations will be the fifth by a pope.