History will be made this week when for the first time, the head of the Catholic Church will speak to Congress.
Since being elected, Pope Francis has garnered headlines for speaking about “unbridled” capitalism which he tied to climate change, abortion, and helping the poor and those seeking refuge. All of those are issues facing world leaders today, and he could speak about any of those or dozens of other things when he addresses Congress Thursday.
Experts say it’s difficult to predict what topics the Pope will discuss, but Saint Louis University’s Father Christopher Collins says one clue might be that the pope will come to the U.S. after a visit to Cuba.
“Which in itself,” said Collins, “is an indication of the need to pay attention to the immigration issue. I would imagine it’s very hard to believe he would not talk about immigration, not only in the U.S. context but also globally.”
What the Pope says about those issues could potentially clash with either of the dominant political parties in Congress, but western Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II told Missourinet lawmakers should look beyond that.
“I hope that members of Congress are not going there deciding whether to turn him on and off based on whether or not what he says fits neatly into their ideology,” said Cleaver.
Eastern and Central Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Catholic himself, thinks the Pope should keep his comments to religious guidance.
“I’m not sure where he gets his expertise, if any at all, with regard to other matters, but we’ll certainly listen to him and see what he has to say,” said Luetkemeyer.
Missouri’s Senior Senator, Democrat Claire McCaskill, said she would not be surprised if the pope speaks about abortion – something the Catholic church opposes but she and most in her party, support the availability of.
“I’m sure the pope will reiterate the church’s position,” said McCaskill, “but he has expanded the message of the church. I think there have been times that it seemed all the church was worried about was that issue, when there were so many other issues that needed to be addressed and I just appreciate that the pope has emphasized some of those other issues in addition to the church’s position on that issue.”
Senator Roy Blunt (R) hopes the pope will speak about religious freedom and tolerance.
“That’s one of the three things that we need to really do to continue to project who we are and what our values are, and I would think that would be one of the values that the pope would particularly share,” said Blunt.