By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis’ address to a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24 will be broadcast live to members of the public on the West Front of the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner announced July 8.
"The visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. Capitol is a historic moment for the country," he said in a statement, adding that "the unprecedented nature of his visit" prompted the decision to broadcast his address.
Pope Francis also "has expressed an interest in making a brief appearance on the West Front," the Ohio Republican said. "We look forward to welcoming Pope Francis and Americans from all walks of life to our Capitol on Sept. 24."
The release from Boehner’s office said details on the availability of tickets will be announced at a later date.
Pope Francis will arrive late Sept. 22 at Andrews Field at Joint Base Andrews just outside of Washington. He will be in the nation’s capital Sept. 23-24, then in New York Sept. 25 and in Philadelphia Sept. 26-27.
Most of the events on the pope’s itinerary for all three cities are for select groups and not open to the general public, though organizers of the trip expect crowds to form along the various routes any papal motorcade might take from one venue to another.
In New York Pope Francis will celebrate an evening Mass Sept. 25 at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, where the seating is more than 19,000. Tickets will be required for the Mass and will be primarily distributed to parishes within the Archdiocese of New York. A limited number also will be available for distribution by Catholic organizations and institutions throughout the archdiocese, the other New York dioceses and a couple of out-of-state neighboring dioceses.
In Philadelphia the pontiff will celebrate a public Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway the afternoon of Sept. 27. No tickets are required for that event.
In March 2014, when there was speculation Pope Francis would visit the U.S. to attend the last day of the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Boehner issued a formal, open invitation to the pontiff to address a joint meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate as a visiting head of state.
Boehner, who is Catholic, issued the invitation as the constitutional officer of Congress.
This January the pope confirmed he would visit the U.S. in September and in February Boehner announced he accepted the invitation to speak to Congress.
The pontiff’s "historic visit" would make him the "first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress," Boehner said in a statement, adding that he was "truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation."
"In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds," the House speaker added. "His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another."
Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.