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Pope moves audience with powerful words at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York

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WASHINGTON -Latest developments in Pope Francis' visit to the United States. All times local:

Pope Francis has left St. Patrick's Cathedral after consoling priests for having to "bear the shame" of the clergy sex-abuse scandal, thanking America's nuns and offering a prayer for Muslims killed in the hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia.

The pope's remarks — his first in New York City — came during evening prayers at the cathedral.

The pontiff gradually made his way out, shaking hands with nuns and others, blessing a girl and a boy who was passed through the crowd by his father. Then he got in his Fiat, waved to the crowds still gathered outside and drove off.

As Francis rests ahead of a packed day, he's expected to stay at the home of the Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza.

The pope's schedule Friday includes addressing world leaders at the United Nations, participating in an interfaith service at the Sept. 11 memorial museum, visiting a school and taking a processional drive through Central Park. He will celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.

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7:45 p.m.

Pope Francis has made his strongest expression yet of respect and gratitude for American nuns during a prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.Pope addresses St Patricks

Francis described religious sisters as "women of strength" and "fighters" who had a "spirit of courage" as they served at the forefront of the church. He said he wanted to offer "a big thank-you and to tell you that I love you very much."

Nuns in the pews erupted in applause on hearing the pope's words. They held enormous significance for U.S. sisters, who had been the subject of Vatican investigations under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican offices that guards orthodoxy had ordered an overhaul of the largest umbrella group for U.S. sisters, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, accusing the group of straying broadly from church teaching, which the nuns denied.

The investigation prompted a nationwide outpouring on behalf of the nuns and a backlash against the Vatican and U.S. bishops. Francis ended the overhaul process this year, nearly two years ahead of schedule, with no major changes for the sisters' association and his thanks for their work.

pope at evening servicesThe remarks were his second major gesture in support of nuns on the U.S. trip so far. In Washington on Wednesday, he paid a surprise visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order that runs homes for poor senior citizens. The religious order is suing the Obama administration.

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7:40 p.m.

The pope has again raised the clergy sex-abuse crisis, by consoling clergy for the suffering the scandal had caused them.

Francis told members of religious orders and diocesan priests on Thursday that he was aware they had "suffered greatly" by having to "bear the shame" of clergy who had molested children. He thanked them for their faithful service to the church in the face of the scandal.

The pope made the comments at a prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. He made similar comments in an address to bishops Wednesday in Washington, praising them for what he called their "generous commitment" to helping victims.pope begins prayers

The comments have angered advocates for victims, who say American bishops only took decisive action to stop perpetrators when lawsuits and government investigations revealed documents that showed the scope of the problem. The abuse crisis erupted in 2002 with the case of one pedophile priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, then spread across the country and overseas.

A Vatican spokesman defended the pope's remarks, saying it was appropriate to recognize the bishops' extensive reforms over more than a decade in response to the scandal.

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7:20 p.m.

Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity with Muslims following the hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia, where more than 700 people were killed.

Francis opened his visit to New York by offering a prayer for the victims from the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

pope arrives at st patricksFrancis said he wanted to offer a "sentiment of closeness in light of the tragedy" that the Muslim people had suffered on Thursday.
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7:15 p.m.

Pope Francis is praying vespers — the formal term for evening prayers — at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Members of the clergy and religious orders have filled the grand, gothic-style cathedral for the service.

As Francis made his way down the long central aisle to the altar, he occasionally stopped to greet people in the pews, including a a girl in a wheelchair and a mother holding a baby.

The girl wiped at her eyes, as if to whisk away tears, after he blessed her.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Charles Schumer and other elected officials are attending the service.

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6:50 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived at St. Patrick's Cathedral to begin his New York visit with evening prayers at one of the nation's best-known churches.

Thousands of people lined up along Fifth Avenue to greet him with cheers as he made his way in his open-sided popemobile to the center of one of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdioceses.

The cathedral's bells pealed as Francis waved to and blessed the crowd, even giving the occasional thumbs-up.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and other dignitaries greeted him on the cathedral steps.

The 136-year-old cathedral just underwent a three-year, $175 million restoration, the most extensive work there in decades.

About 5 million people visit St. Patrick's each year.

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6:40 p.m.pope in popemobile

Thousands of New Yorkers are getting their first glimpse of Pope Francis as he rides to St. Patrick's Cathedral in his open-sided Jeep popemobile.

The crowd screamed with excitement as the pope drew up to the vehicle in a Fiat, waved and began a roughly five-block motorcade down Fifth Avenue to the cathedral, flanked by police vehicles with flashing lights.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is riding with him as they head to the cathedral for evening prayers.

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6:25 p.m.

One of the most buzzed about moments of the pope's trip so far was a small gesture on his part, but a big deal for his followers.

A disabled 12-year-old girl and her family say she has new hope after Pope Francis blessed her as he arrived in New York City.

Julia Buzzese sat in her wheelchair as her family eagerly waited for Francis at John F. Kennedy Airport, hoping the pope they admire would bless her.

As he greeted the crowd of about 200, he walked over to Julia. She and her mother, Josephine, asked him to bless her. He put his hands on her forehead, nodded and gave her his blessing.

Julia says it made her "so happy." She says she thinks it will make her feel better.

Julia abruptly became unable to walk in May. Her mother says doctors have been unable to determine what is wrong with her.

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5:45 p.m.
Pope Francis is en route to Manhattan by helicopter after arriving at New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport.

As he boarded the military helicopter, he gave a final wave to the invited crowd of 200 that had gathered to greet him when he flew in from Washington.

The pope dispensed Mass cards, handshakes and some hugs to the cheering onlookers.

A high-school band played "New York, New York" as Francis made his way to the crowd, where Catholic schoolchildren were waiting to present him with a bouquet and a collection of prayers written by students in the city's 86 Catholic schools.

Francis is flying to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport near Wall Street in the helicopter, built by Sikorsky Aircraft.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is aboard. The two are headed to St. Patrick's Cathedral for evening prayers.

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5:10 p.m.

Pope Francis has landed in New York City to begin a visit that will take him from the United Nations to a school that sits amid public housing in East Harlem.

His chartered American Airlines plane has touched down at John F. Kennedy Airport, bringing the pontiff to the United States' largest city.

The 200-person welcoming party includes Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and five Catholic schoolchildren. It's the first papal trip to New York since Pope Benedict XVI visited in April 2008.

Francis is headed first to St. Patrick's Cathedral for Thursday evening prayers.

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4:45 p.m.

Some 450 students from Catholic schools and religious education programs joined Secretary of State John Kerry and hundreds of military members and their families in giving Pope Francis a warm send-off from Washington.

The pope is now on his way to New York. As he neared the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, the students chanted, "We love Francis, yes we do. We love Francis, how 'bout you?"
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4:25 p.m.

Pope Francis will take on the role of tourist as he visits New York City and Philadelphia Thursday evening through Sunday. The pope's stops include the United Nations and Madison Square Gardens in New York, as well as a somber visit to the September 11 Memorial. And there's a processional through the famed Central Park.

In Philadelphia on Saturday, he will visit Independence Hall, the birthplace of American democracy.

The pope is flying to New York after taking off from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on Thursday afternoon.

At the top of the steps to the airplane, he turned, removed his white skull cap, smiled and waved goodbye.
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3:40 p.m.

After a day of speaking to the powerful and mingling with the poor in Washington, Pope Francis is leaving the city for New York.

Francis made a last round of greetings and selfies with Washington-area students, pausing to pat a little girl's face and touch boys' heads as he made his way to the black Fiat carrying him to Andrews Air Force Base.

He will fly to Kennedy Airport, where his greeting party includes Cardinal Timothy Dolan and 200 indigent people.

Francis' plans Thursday evening include a motorcade along Fifth Avenue and a vespers service at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

He speaks to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, visits the 9/11 Memorial and goes to Madison Square Garden for a Mass with thousands of people.

Then it's on to Philadelphia for the weekend.

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2:45 p.m.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is being treated for cancer, says it was an honor to meet Pope Francis and receive the pontiff's blessing on behalf of all cancer patients at a meeting at the Catholic Charities chapel.

The Catholic governor was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma in June and is being treated with chemotherapy. He says his faith gives him strength to defeat the disease.

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2:15 p.m.

In his Washington visit, Pope Francis delivered his message of compassion and unity at a moment of particular turmoil for Congress.

The threat of a partial government shutdown looms next week unless lawmakers can resolve a dispute over funding for women's health services at Planned Parenthood, which also performs abortions and provides fetal tissue for researchers.

Francis didn't join that controversy, alluding only in passing to the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion when he noted, to applause, "our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development."

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1:50 p.m.

A number of presidential candidates took time from the divisive 2016 campaign to attend the pope's speech to Congress.

Republicans Ben Carson and Chris Christie came as invited guests. Also attending were senators who are in the 2016 race: Republicans Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham; and Democrat Bernie Sanders.

Some found the pope's words hard to make out at times because of his accent and low-key speaking style.

Carson says he liked the pope's themes about taking care of life, the family and the environment. Asked whether the pope said anything that bothered him, Carson said: "Not that I could understand."

Cruz said that "at times, not everyone could make out precisely what he was saying."

Sanders liked that the pope singled out Dorothy Day, a Catholic activist for labor unions and human rights in the last century, as an American who helped shape the nation's values.

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1:40 p.m.

The White House says President Barack Obama had time to watch some of Pope Francis' historic address to Congress.

Spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama was struck by the pope's message both to leaders and citizens of the U.S.

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1:30 p.m.

Four of the nine justices — Chief Justice John Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor — were in the House chamber to hear the pope.

Roberts, Kennedy and Sotomayor are three of the court's six Catholic justices. They also attended Wednesday's mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The other Catholic justices are Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Ginsburg is one of three Jews on the high court, along with Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

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1 p.m.

Lawmakers known for feuding bitterly oozed civility and decorum when they came together to hear the pope — but their partisan differences occasionally showed through.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, let out a whoop when Pope Francis called for abolishing the death penalty.

Other Democrats rose to applaud when the pope urged action on climate change.

Some Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, stood when the pope cited his opposition to abortion.

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12:45 p.m.

Pope Francis brought comfort to a more modest gathering after speaking to Congress and thousands of people cheering from the lawn.

Outside the Catholic Charities building in Washington, the pope walked among tables where homeless and needy people were eating and blessed the meal.

Francis also spoke to about 400 people at St. Patrick Church, including the homeless, parishioners of the church and Catholic Charities staff. He waded into the crowd and hugged people.

 

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12:30 p.m.

The pope is highlighting the contributions of four people who he says shaped fundamental American values.

In his speech to Congress, the pope cited President Abraham Lincoln, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., social activist Dorothy Day and writer Thomas Merton.

Francis hailed Lincoln for defending liberty during the Civil War and King for fostering the dream of full rights for Americans of all races.

The pope also cited two lesser known Americans: Day and Merton, both Catholic peace activists. Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement that helped the poor and homeless. Merton was a Trappist monk and poet who advocated interfaith dialogue.

Francis says a nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters dreams of full rights for all, as King did; when it strives for justice for the oppressed, as Day did; and when it encourages peaceful dialogue, as Merton did.

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11:40 a.m.

Fresh off his historic speech to Congress and greetings to a crowd of tens of thousands, Pope Francis addressed one of smallest gatherings of his U.S. visit.

Francis spoke to roughly 400 people at St. Patrick's Church in downtown Washington, addressing parishioners, people served by Catholic Charities and choirs from two local high schools. He called for charity and compassion toward the homeless and the least fortunate. And he said there is no social or moral justification for a lack of housing for the people.

Afterward, he was going to help serve lunch to homeless people who are regularly fed by Catholic Charities.

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11:30 a.m.

Tens of thousands who gathered on the front lawn of the Capitol stood quietly and attentively as they listened to Pope Francis speak inside to a joint meeting of Congress.

The largest applause came when Francis invoked the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — in reference to the Syrian refugee crisis.

He also received steady applause when he spoke about defending human life at every stage of development and about the joy of marriage and family life.

Mostly, though, the crowd listened quietly to a speech that was not always easily understood, given the pope's accent and the acoustics of the Capitol lawn.

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11:20 a.m.

From the balcony of the U.S. Capitol, Pope Francis asked a crowd of tens of thousands to pray for him.

It's a plea he traditionally makes. But this time, speaking in Spanish, he added a line to acknowledge that not everyone in the crowd was Christian, much less a believer.

Through a translator, the pontiff said: "If among you there are some who don't believe or who cannot pray, I ask that you send good wishes my way."

After his speech to Congress, the pope walked onto a balcony of the Capitol and greeted the throngs with "Buenos Dias."

He expressed gratitude for their presence and asked God to bless "the most important ones here — children."

Francis ended his remarks in English, saying "Thank you very much and God bless America." The crowd cheered boisterously.

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11:10 a.m.

Pope Francis has taken his call for action on climate change to Congress. In his address to lawmakers, Francis urged a "courageous and responsible effort" to avert the most serious effects of what he called the "environmental deterioration caused by human activity."

Francis says he's convinced that working together, nations can make a difference to slow global warming. He says the U.S. and "this Congress" have an important role to play. Now, he says, is the time for a "culture of care."

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11 a.m.

Pope Francis is lamenting that the very basis of marriage and family life today is being put into question — an allusion to gay marriage in a country that recently legalized same-sex marriage across the land.

Speaking before Congress in the first-ever papal address, Francis said the family today is "threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without."

While Francis has shown great openness to gays as individuals, he has staunchly upheld the church teaching that marriage is a union between man and woman.

Sitting in front of Francis for his speech was John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, which legalized gay marriage across the country.

Francis is expected to speak in greater depth about the threats to families at a big church rally in Philadelphia later this week.

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11 a.m.

Pope Francis is demanding an end to the arms trade, delivering a tough message to a country that is the world's largest exporter of weapons.

Speaking before Congress, the pope asked why weapons are being sold to people who intend only to inflict suffering on innocents. He said: "Sadly, the answer as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood."

Francis has in the past denounced weapons makers and dealers as "the root of evil" and questioned how weapons manufacturers can call themselves Christian.

Francis has, however, said that it is legitimate to use military force against an "unjust aggression," such as the attacks by Islamic extremists against Christian and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

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10:50 a.m.

Pope Francis has used his speech to Congress to express sympathy for American Indians for their "turbulent and violent" early contacts with arriving Europeans. But he says it is hard to judge past actions by today's standards.

Francis did not specifically use the term American Indians. He said the rights of "those who were here long before us" were not always respected.

He says that "for those people and their nations," he wants to express his highest esteem and appreciation.

Francis has been criticized by some Native Americans for his decision to canonize an 18th century missionary, Junipero Serra, on Wednesday. Indigenous groups say Serra was part of the violent colonizing machine that wiped out indigenous populations. Francis has defended Serra as a great evengelizer who protected indigenous peoples from the abuses of colonizers.

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10:35 a.m.

Speaking to Congress, Pope Francis is calling for an end to the death penalty in the U.S. and across the world. Francis says that every life is sacred and society can only benefit from rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.

The pope noted that U.S. bishops have renewed their call to abolish capital punishment. That idea is unpopular, however, with many American politicians.

The pontiff did not specifically mention abortion — a particularly contentious issue in Congress at the moment that threatens to force the shutdown of the U.S. government next week.

Still, his remarks referred to the Catholic church's opposition to abortion. He urged lawmakers and all Americans to "protect and defend human life at every stage of its development."

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10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis is urging Congress members — and the United States as a whole — not to be afraid of immigrants but to welcome them as fellow human beings.

He says people are not things that can be discarded just because they are troublesome.

The pontiff's admonition comes as the presidential race is roiled by questions about immigration from Mexico and Latin America, and the nation is weighing how many migrants to accept from wars in the Middle East.

The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina himself, Francis noted that the United States was founded by immigrants, that many lawmakers are descended from foreigners, and that this generation must not "turn their back on our neighbors."

His plea: "Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated."

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10:15 a.m.

Pope Francis is calling for a "delicate balance" in fighting religious extremism to ensure that fundamental freedoms aren't trampled at the same time.

He says in his speech to Congress that "no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism."

He says religious, intellectual and individual freedoms must be safeguarded, while combating violence perpetrated in the name of religion.

The pope cautions against simplistically breaking the world into camps of good and evil.

Francis has expressed deep concern about the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic extremists, fearing that the Christian presence in the region is risk. He's dispatched envoys to Iraq with money and other forms of assistance to help refugees.

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10:05 a.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in the House chamber for his speech to Congress.

The pontiff walked up the aisle to thunderous applause from standing lawmakers, and paused to shake the hand of Secretary of State John Kerry.

House Speaker John Boehner told lawmakers he had the "high privilege and distinct honor" of presenting the pope.

Pope Francis opened his historic speech to Congress by describing himself as a "son of this great continent" joined in a common purpose with America.

The Argentine-born pope is the first from the Americas. And his speech to Congress is the first by any pontiff.

A bipartisan group of congressional leaders escorted him up the aisle for his speech in the House chamber, as tens of thousands waited outside.

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9:30 a.m.

With a handshake and a smile, House Speaker John Boehner has welcomed Pope Francis to his ornate ceremonial office in the Capitol prior to the first papal address to Congress in history.

The Ohio Republican told Francis, "Your Holiness, welcome, really glad that you're here."

Boehner's eyes moistened as the pope told him he was glad to be there, too.

Before the pope's arrival, Boehner told those waiting with him that the pope's visit was "a big deal" for him, as a Catholic.

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8:50 a.m.

The pope greeted well-wishers outside the Vatican's diplomatic mission on his way to his historic visit to Congress.

As he did Wednesday, Francis lingered with the excited crowd outside the mission, on another sunny day. Tens of thousands await him on Capitol Hill.

After his speech to Congress, Francis is expected to go to the Hall of Statues, where there is a statue of America's newest saint, Junipero Serra, whom Francis canonized on Wednesday.

Joined by House Speaker John Boehner, he'll then offer to the Library of Congress a special edition of the Bible. Then he's to go to a balcony to greet and offer a benediction to the throngs below.

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8:30 a.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration is reminding people that Washington, New York and Philadelphia are no-drone zones during the pope's visit to the U.S.

The FAA has put in flight restrictions through Sunday. That means flying a drone or unmanned aircraft anywhere in those cities is against the law and may result in criminal or civil charges.

Pope Francis leaves Washington on Thursday for New York and goes to Philadelphia on Saturday.

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8:10 a.m.

Tens of thousands already are gathering on the front lawn of the Capitol to watch the pope's speech on Jumbotron screens and maybe catch a glimpse of Francis. Security is tight, and streets within a three-block radius are closed offf. He is expected to wave from a balcony a few hundred yards away.

But one individual will announce his presence to the crowd: Paul Irving.

"Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See!"

Those booming words will announce Pope Francis as he arrives for his historic speech as the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress.

The man who will perform the ceremonial call is more accustomed to protecting famous people than introducing them.

Irving spent his career in the Secret Service. He was a special agent for 25 years and the service's assistant director from 2001 to 2008.

Speaker John Boehner chose him as House sergeant-at-arms in 2012.

When he's not introducing dignitaries before Congress, his main duty is to oversee security in the House side of the Capitol.

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6:45 a.m.

With his speech Thursday morning, Francis will become the first pope to address Congress.

Francis' speech to Congress is a personal and political coup for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican and Catholic.

Boehner unsuccessfully invited the two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, to speak. He began trying in 1994 during his second House term, organizing a petition by lawmakers saying John Paul II was a "world leader, ambassador of peace and an important catalyst in the fall of the Iron Curtain."

Francis is the fourth pope to meet with a president in the U.S., including presidential visits on six separate trips by John Paul II.

The first was Paul VI's 1965 New York meeting with President Lyndon Johnson. Benedict XVI met President George W. Bush in 2008.

Francis' coming speech at the United Nations will be the fifth by a pope.