Congress prepares to welcome Pope Francis in historic moment

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States continues Thursday when he will address members of the United States Congress.

Pope Francis will be the first leader of the Catholic Church to ever address both the Senate and House of Representatives, giving members a moment to take a short breath before dealing with a possible government shutdown next week.

“Everything else just gets delayed a couple more days so rather than working in overtime and getting things done on time, we’ll just end up with a couple more days here in which we’ll devote to the Pope’s visit,” said South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, adding, “It’s exciting, and something that is important.”

Gallery: Pope Francis’ historic U.S. visit

Catholics make up more than a fourth of Congress and Thursday will be the first time some of them have ever seen the Pope in person.

“There’s a lot of buzz and excitement about it,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said of his visit. “What we in Congress need to hear, what we really need to hear probably most from the Pope is that leaders can have a humility and really be servants.”

Sen. Kaine is one of the 164 members of the Congress the Pew Research Center says consider themselves Catholic. That’s about 31 percent. Many of them, including Kaine, maintain a strong connection to the church. He visited Honduras just last February where he once spent time as a Catholic missionary.

The Pope does not fall into an American political category, which means Republicans and Democrats may not always see eye to eye with his opinions.

All sides do agree that it will be exciting to witness the unique moment in history.

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly said, “I’ll feel a great honor to have a chance to be there with the Pope.”

Members of Congress are allowed to bring one guest. Some have invited constituents while others are bringing their spouses.

Climate change and immigration are expected to be among the topics Pope Francis will talk about in his speech.

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