House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Thursday that Pope Francis would visit the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 24 and become the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to address a joint session of Congress.
“It will be a historic visit, and we are truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation,” Boehner said in a statement.
The pope will arrive in Washington on Sept. 22 and meet with President Obama at the White House the next morning, the Catholic News Agency reported last month.
He will then travel to New York on Sept. 25 and speak at the United Nations. From Sept. 25 to 27, the Francis will attend the World Meeting of Families conference and will give Sunday Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The events are expected to draw 2 million people to Philadelphia.
Boehner extended the invitation to the pope last March, on the one-year anniversary of the pope’s election. Some analysts viewed the invitation as a chance for the Republican–controlled House to highlight poverty and income inequality, key pillars that Pope Francis has touched on often.
The last pontiff to visit Washington was Pope Benedict in 2008.
“We are eager to welcome His Holiness to the U.S. Capitol,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in a statement.
In addition to Pope Francis’ three-city visit to the United States, he will also travel to South America and Africa this year.
Times staff writer Michael Muskal contributed to this report.