Pope Francis first pontiff to address US Congress


US lawmakers greeted Pope Francis with cheers and loud applause Thursday at the US Capitol, where he is the first pontiff to address the Congress.

“I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility,” Francis, the first pope to hail from the Americas, told the chamber filled with lawmakers of both parties, Supreme Court justices, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, the top Republican in the lower chamber and a devout Catholic, introduced the pope and wished him good luck as he began the address.

Boehner and Biden sat immediately behind the pontiff, who spoke from the podium where presidents deliver their state of the union speeches each year.

Ahead of his remarks, Pope Francis had been widely expected to challenge it to act against global warming. On Wednesday he told President Barack Obama, “Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation” at a ceremony at the White House.

Washington’s political elite will be listening for how he broaches the topic before Congress, whose membership includes climate-change sceptics.

Many in Washington already have observed that he does not fit neatly into the typical left-right divide of US politics – with views on immigration reform touted by Obama’s Democrats and opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, positions typically adopted by Republicans.

Boehner earlier acknowledged he and the pope might not always see eye-to-eye on some more “controversial issues.”

Boehner first urged House leadership more than 20 years ago to invite the pope – John Paul II at the time – to address Congress when he was a second-term congressman.