Arguably the most politically engaged pontiff in a century, Pope Francis is set to address Congress next month in what could be a new watershed moment in his campaign to influence world leaders.
Set for September 24th, Francis accepted an invitation from Republican Speaker John Boehner just weeks after his controversial encyclical incensed conservatives for calling out unbridled capitalism for its ravaging of the environment and exploitation of the poor.
That document along with recent public statements has Catholic lawmakers on the Democrat side of the aisle in an expectant mood in hopes the Pope’s address might be seen as a moral vindication of progressive policies.
But Republican Catholics remain in cautious anticipation as well, given the ongoing wake of scandal in the infamous Planned Parenthood videos, which almost surely will set the stage for some of Francis’ remarks.
The event marks a rare alignment of political power in which three of the five high ranking elected officials in America — Speaker John Boehner, Minority-leader Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Joe Biden — are Catholic and thus give deference, in one degree or another, to the papacy.
Analysts expect that Francis will use the occasion both to praise the long legacy of the United States of lifting up the downtrodden but equally to admonish leaders in both parties for pursuing policies that devalue the poor and vulnerable and that ignore the inherent value of the created order.