Did you catch the shoutout to Pope Francis during President Obama’s State of the Union address? It’s only the third time in history that’s happened.
Francis’ name will resurface in Congress later this year if and when he accepts an invitation to address lawmakers — that would be a historical first — during his September trip to Philadelphia, Washington, and New York.
“We might say, really, the highlight of the Washington visit might be his speech to the joint meeting of Congress, to the Senate and the House of Representatives,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, a member of the papal visit planning committee.
However, such a speech will be far more than a “highlight.” With a Catholic vice president and a Catholic speaker of the House looking on behind him, the speech will serve as a vivid reminder of how far Americans have come in overcoming deeply embedded anti-Catholic prejudice and bigotry.
That bigotry includes Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in 1813: “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. … In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.”