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Pope Francis has been invited by the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner to speak to a joint session of Congress.
Boehner, a Republican and a Catholic, extended the invitation in a letter to the Vatican on the first anniversary of Francis’ election as Pope last Thursday saying Francis had “awakened hearts on every continent”.
He issued the invitation with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and a fellow Catholic.
“Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service,” Boehner wrote.
Mr Boehner said the Pope’s message “challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties”.
Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI visited the United Nations in New York, but a pope has never addressed the House and Senate during a joint session.
In January unnamed Vatican officials reportedly said that Pope Francis had expressed an interest in visiting the US in 2015.
US President Barack Obama is to meet the Pope in the Vatican on 27 March.