Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2015 / 08:49 am
The final plans are set for the public's chance to watch Pope Francis' Sept. 24 address to Congress live at the U.S. Capitol.
Tickets will be extremely hard to come by, though. Only about 50 tickets will be distributed through each House of Representatives office for the public to watch a live broadcast of Francis' address via jumbotrons outside the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.
"While a clear line-of-sight cannot be guaranteed for all attending the West Front broadcast, the space provides an opportunity for your constituents to be part of the event," stated a July 29 letter to members of Congress from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Fifty lawn tickets and one terrace ticket will be available through each office. One additional ticket per office will be for a broadcast of the address in the Cannon House Office Building.
There is no word yet on whether tickets will be available through Senate offices, but 50 lawn tickets for 435 representatives would yield less than 22,000 seats for people to watch the address on the West Front of the Capitol.
Those who do attend will get to experience an "inauguration-like setting" for Pope Francis, as Speaker Boehner's office announced earlier in July. Additionally, Pope Francis has expressed his wishes to appear briefly on the West Front after he speaks to Congress, so attendees could possibly see him in person.
Speaker Boehner called the papal visit to the Capitol building "unprecedented" and a "historic moment for the country" in a July 8 press release, when plans for the address were officially announced. In March 2014, he had invited Pope Francis to come to the U.S. Capitol, and the Vatican accepted the invite in February 2015.
"In the spirit of the namesake of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis' universal message of love and compassion speaks to millions around the world," Rep. Pelosi stated on July 8.
"In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father's message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another," Speaker Boehner stated.
Francis' address to the joint session of Congress will come in the middle of a whirlwind tour of Cuba and the U.S. from Sept. 19-27. He will arrive in Washington, D.C. on the evening of the 22nd.
He will meet privately with President Obama at the White House on Sept. 23 and then pray with the U.S. Catholic bishops at St. Matthew's Cathedral. Later on the 23rd, he will celebrate the canonization Mass of Bl. Junipero Serra at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
He will address Congress the following morning. After that, he will visit about 150-200 persons with disabilities at St. Patrick Catholic Church in downtown Washington, D.C. and appear at Catholic Charities, D.C. for their weekly St. Maria's Meals program for the homeless.
Monsignor John Enzler, the head of Catholic Charities, D.C., previously told CNA that he thinks Pope Francis is making a statement by going directly from addressing the powerful – the nation's lawmakers – to visiting the most vulnerable.
Francis has always placed an emphasis on serving the poor, Msgr. Enzler continued, and is acting on his words by ending his Washington, D.C. tour with a visit to them.
Catholic Charities, D.C. is his last stop before leaving for New York City to address the United Nations on the 25th and then to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 26-27.