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This Time It’s All Smiles as Pope Francis Accepts Boehner’s Invite

The last time House Speaker John Boehner invited a world leader to Washington it caused controversy. His latest invitation to Pope Francis has inspired the opposite.

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For the second time in a month, a key world leader has accepted an invitation by House Speaker John Boehner to speak to Congress. Unlike Boehner’s controversial invite to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this time everyone is thrilled.

Pope Francis, the widely popular reformist leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, is scheduled to address a Sept. 24 joint session of Congress during his first visit to the United States. Boehner issued the invitation last year and announced Thursday morning that Francis has accepted. President Barack Obama said he would also meet with the pope during his time in Washington.

This is a far cry from the reaction to Boehner’s last offer to a world leader. On Jan. 21, Boehner announced that Netanyahu would speak to Congress in March, giving the Israeli leader a forum to make his case against Obama’s efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. The White House accused Boehner of breaking diplomatic protocol, and said the president would not meet with Netanyahu. Caught in the middle, some pro-Israel Democrats are pushing for the speech to be delayed, and others are threatening to skip it.

For the second time in a month, a key world leader has accepted an invitation by House Speaker John Boehner to speak to Congress. Unlike Boehner’s controversial invite to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this time everyone is thrilled.

Pope Francis, the widely popular reformist leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, is scheduled to address a Sept. 24 joint session of Congress during his first visit to the United States. Boehner issued the invitation last year and announced Thursday morning that Francis has accepted. President Barack Obama said he would also meet with the pope during his time in Washington.

This is a far cry from the reaction to Boehner’s last offer to a world leader. On Jan. 21, Boehner announced that Netanyahu would speak to Congress in March, giving the Israeli leader a forum to make his case against Obama’s efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. The White House accused Boehner of breaking diplomatic protocol, and said the president would not meet with Netanyahu. Caught in the middle, some pro-Israel Democrats are pushing for the speech to be delayed, and others are threatening to skip it.

There’s no such drama with the pope. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was “honored and overjoyed” by news of Francis’s visit. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised Francis for “moving the hearts of millions and inspiring a new generation with an engaging and compelling style” from Buenos Aires to St. Peter’s Square.

Francis will be the first pope to address a joint session of Congress. He previously met with Obama in March 2014, and played a key role in facilitating the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

The pope was elected leader of the Catholic Church in March 2013. Since then, he’s broken with the more stately traditions of his predecessors, wearing a simple white robe instead of the ornate garments of past popes. No previous pontiff had ever washed the feet of a woman, but Francis did so for female Muslim prisoners in March 2013. His messages of religious tolerance and economic justice have resonated with the Catholic faithful, shaken by years of sexual abuse scandals.

“Like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable,” Obama said at a prayer breakfast Thursday morning. “He challenges us to press on in what he calls our ‘march of living hope.’ And like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year.”

Photo Credit: Andreas Solaro/Getty Images

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