The arrival of Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. has been one of the most anticipated events in recent memory. Many thousands of people are expected to gather across the city to see and hear the head of the Catholic Church in his first ever visit to the United States. The excitement for Pope Francis extends across the city and into the chambers of congress where the pope will address members of our legislature before a joint session on Thursday. Anticipation levels are so high that congressional leadership will employ some extraordinary measures during the pope’s visit. To enforce discipline among the members, “each party is assembling teams of lawmakers to essentially act as blocking tackles, willing to restrain any of their colleagues intent on trying to reach out for a papal touch as he walks onto the floor of the House. And after the historic speech, the doors to the cloakrooms and the hallways will be blocked — and in some cases, locked — to prevent lawmakers from leaving the chamber for perhaps half an hour, until Francis has appeared on a West Front balcony to greet the ticketed throng and then departed the Hill by motorcade” reports Roll Call.
Moreover, the Washington Post reports that the Pope’s U.S. visit will produce one of the largest and most extensive security operations in U.S. history. According to the Post, “The U.S. Secret Service is in charge of coordinating the massive intergovernmental operation on counterterrorism operations, crowd management, crisis response and air and vehicle traffic control. The FBI, Capitol Police, Coast Guard, Pentagon and Federal Emergency Management Agency are closely involved in the planning, along with local police departments.”
On Wednesday, in his first full day in Washington, D.C., the pope will start the day with a welcoming from President Obama at the White House. The president and Pope Francis have a strong working relationship and share similar views in some key policy areas. U.S. News reports, “Both want governments to increase their commitments to the poor and the unfortunate, such as immigrants. And Francis supports reducing lengthy prison sentences for people convicted of lesser offenses, which is part of Obama’s agenda. Francis also backs Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.”
The two world leaders also share very similar views on climate change, which has had a significant impact on the influential Catholic lobby in the United States. The Washington Post reports, “In August, when President Obama took the podium in the East Room to announce his plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, standing behind him was Sister Joan Marie Steadman, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the nation’s largest group of Catholic nun leaders.” In speech President Obama “thanked her [Sister Joan Marie Steadman] for helping ‘rally Catholic women across America to take on climate.’”
In an interesting article titled, “Catholic lobby flexes its muscle ahead of Pope Francis’s visit” the Washington Post profiles the Catholic lobby in the United States and it is well worth a read while enjoying Pope Francis’ historic visit.