WASHINGTON (AP) - In a landmark event that could have many holding their breath, Pope Francis has agreed to address a joint meeting of Congress this fall. That sets the stage for an oration by an outspoken pontiff whose views on immigration and global warming clash with those of many Republicans who run the House and Senate.
Francis will speak Sept. 24, marking the first time the head of the world's Roman Catholics will address Congress. It will come during the first U.S. visit of Francis' two-year-old papacy, a trip also expected to include a White House meeting with President Barack Obama, a speech to the United Nations in New York and a Catholic rally for families in Philadelphia.
Saying he had "a bit of good news," House Speaker John Boehner delivered first word of Francis' speech at his weekly news conference Thursday.
"We're humbled that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation and certainly look forward to receiving his message on behalf of the American people," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a written statement that she looks forward to "hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace."
When he speaks to lawmakers, Francis will address a Congress that is 31 percent Catholic, well above the 22 percent of all Americans, according to a survey released last month by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Boehner and Pelosi are both Catholic.
Francis, an Argentinian Jesuit and the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, has made helping immigrants a cornerstone of his papacy and has called on wealthy nations to do more for the poor.
In milestone, Pope Francis will address Congress this fall
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - OCTOBER 30: Pope Francis attends an audience with President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz at the Apostolic Palace on October 30, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will speak before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on November 25th, during its plenary assembly. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (R) wears a plastic poncho as he waves to well wishers after a mass in Tacloban on January 17, 2015. Pope Francis will spend an emotional day in the Philippines on January 17 with survivors of a catastrophic super typhoon that claimed thousands of lives, highlighting his concern over climate change. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis delivers his message during a meeting with Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican Curia on the occasion of the exchange of Christmas greetings in the Clementine hall at Vatican, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andreas Solaro, Pool)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - FEBRUARY 02: Pope Francis leads Mass with members of the institutes of Consecrated Life at St. Peter's Basilica on February 2, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pontiff further urged the bishops to pay special attention to vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, saying that they need 'adequate training' throughout their ministry. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
METRO MANILA, PHILIPPINES - 2015/01/18: Pope Francis is in his 5-day trip to the Philippines for the first time from January 15 to 19. The pontiff's trip will be highlighted by visits to Haiyan-struck areas in the Visayas region, South of Manila. (Photo by John Jerome E. Ganzon/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Pope Francis smiles in front of a videocamera as he take part in a video conference to mark the end of the IV Scholas Occurrentes World Educational Congress, at the Vatican, on February 5, 2015. The 'Scholas Occurrentes' organization is an international project based in Argentina that brings together schools and educational networks from different cultures and beliefs. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JANUARY 28: Pope Francis smiles as he receives from a newly married couple a figurine featuring himself, during his audience at the Paul VI Hall on January 28, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. Speaking during the weekly General Audience, the Pope called on fathers to be present in the lives of their children pointing out that the absence of a 'father figure' can have grave consequences. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives a thumbs up during a meeting with Asian youth at the Solmoe Sanctuary in Dangjin, South Korea, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. Pope Francis urged Catholic youth on Friday to renounce the materialism that afflicts much of Asian society today and reject "inhuman" economic systems that disenfranchise the poor, pressing his economic agenda in one of the region's powerhouses where financial gain is a key barometer of success. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, Pool)
A decorated Christmas tree is seen in the foreground as Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. The pontiff is scheduled to pray in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary in downtown Rome on the occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast later in the afternoon. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
RETRANSMISSION OF OSS102 TO PROVIDE DIFFERENT CROP - In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, Pope Francis is placed a lamb around his neck as he visits a living nativity scene staged at the St. Alfonso Maria de' Liguori parish church, in the outskirts of Rome, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The Epiphany day, is a joyous day for Catholics in which they recall the journey of the Three Kings, or Magi, to pay homage to Baby Jesus. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, ho)
Pope Francis is greeted by Argentinian officers of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, UNFICYP, as he arrives for his weekly general audience in Pope Paul II hall, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis kisses a statue of the baby Jesus as he arrives to celebrate a New Year mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in Vatican City Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis holds a St. Therese's Icon during a press conference aboard a plane during his trip to the Philippines on January 15, 2015. Pope Francis arrived in the Philippines on January 15 for a five-day trip in the Catholic Church's passionate and chaotic Asian heartland that is tipped to attract a world-record papal crowd. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis holds the pastoral staff as he leaves after celebrating a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, to mark Epiphany, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. The Epiphany day, is a joyous day for Catholics in which they recall the journey of the Three Kings, or Magi, to pay homage to Baby Jesus. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis waves to Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican Curia during a meeting on the occasion of the exchange of Christmas greetings in the Clementine hall at Vatican, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andreas Solaro, Pool)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - NOVEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square on November 26, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During today's General Audience Pope Francis told pilgrims the Church is on a continuing journey towards heaven. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - OCTOBER 02: Pope Francis kisses a young kid as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his weekly audience on October 2, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the audience the Pontiff said the Church is not without sin because it is made up of sinners. Priests, sisters, bishops, cardinals and even Popes are sinners. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis speaks during the audience to the Vatican employees, on December 22, 2014 in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, left, shows Pope Francis how to give the popular hand sign for "I love you" at the Mall of Asia arena in Manila, Philippines, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. Pope Francis is on a five-day apostolic visit in this predominantly Catholic nation in Asia. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - MAY 26: (ISRAEL OUT) Pope Francis prays by the Western Wall on May 26, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Pope Francis arrived in Israel on Sunday afternoon, a day after landing in the Middle East for his first visit to the Holy Land. During his visit to the West Bank the Pontiff addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as 'unacceptable' and urged both sides to find courage in seeking a peaceful solution. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
Pope Francis kisses a boy as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on February 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis loses his 'papalina' cup as he catches a baseball ball thrown by a faithful at the end of his weekly audience at St. Peter's Square on September 24, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on his Apostolic Voyage to Albania. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis smiles as he wear a military Alpine hat upon his arrival at St.Peter's square for the weekly general audience on March 5, 2014. The pontiff today has defended the Catholic Church's record on tackling the sexual abuse of children by priests, saying 'no-one else has done more' to root out paedophilia. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - DECEMBER 17: Pope Francis blows out the candles on his birthday cake during his general audience at St Peter's square on December 17, 2014 at the Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pope Francis listens to a speaker delivering his message translated in different languages during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis caresses a child during the audience to the Vatican employees, on December 22, 2014 in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives for a vigil in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Pope Francis on Sunday opens a two-week meeting of bishops and cardinals from around the world aimed at making the church's teaching on family life, marriage, sex, contraception, divorce and homosexuality, relevant to today's Catholic families. The pre-synod debate has been dominated by mudslinging between liberals and conservatives over divorce and remarriage, but there are many more issues up for discussion. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis, flanked by cardinals Angelo Sodano, left, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, second from right, and Norberto Rivera Carrera, arrives to open the morning session of an extraordinary consistory in the Synod hall at the Vatican City, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Pope Francis is leading a two-day meeting urging his cardinals to find "intelligent, courageous" ways to help families under threat today without delving into case-by-case options to get around Catholic doctrine. He said the church must find ways to help families with pastoral care that is "full of love."(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis attends a Vespers prayer in the Church of Jesus, in Rome, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis gestures in St.Peter's square at Vatican during his weekly general audience on March 5, 2014. Pope Francis has defended the Catholic Church's record on tackling the sexual abuse of children by priests, saying 'no-one else has done more' to root out paedophilia. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis is greeted by faithful as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis exchanges gifts with the Prime Minister of Romania Victor Ponta (R) as his wife and European Parliament Member Daciana Sarbu (L) looks on during a private audience in the pontiff's studio at the Vatican on March 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO / POOL / ALESSANDRA TARANTINO (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis prays in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary, on the occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast, in Rome, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 23: Pope Francis drinks mate as he holds his weekly audience on April 23, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pilgrims have started to arrive in St. Peter's Square for the Canonization ceremony for Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, which will take place on Sunday 27th. (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis greets a child dressed up as a pope as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on February 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read OSSERVATORE ROMANO/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets a group of sick children, suffering from tumor, who came to meet him from Poland, at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - FEBRUARY 21: Pope Francis greets cardinals as he arrives at the Synod Hall for the morning session of Extraordinary Consistory on the themes of Family on February 21, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis will create 19 new cardinals during his first consistory on February 22. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis salutes the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on February 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis sits at a table with Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou N'Guesso on the occasion of their private audience in the pope's library at the Vatican, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Tony Gentile, pool)
Pope Francis is welcomed by faithfuls while arriving for a visit to the parish of San Tommaso on the outskirts of Rome on February 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO
(Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Pope Francis is presented with a jersey reading his name during a meeting with FIFA president Joseph Sepp Blatter, left, at the Vatican Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. "We spoke the same language and it was language of football," Blatter said during a press conference following the meeting, ' It was really a meeting between two sportsmen and two football fans."(AP Photo/L' Osservatore Romano, ho)
Pope Francis waves to faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. Francis has cheered the thousands of pilgrims who braved a cold snap belting Italy to attend his weekly general audience, saying they were courageous to come out. Francis himself was bundled up in a white double-breasted winter coat and scarf, but it wasn't enough. He had to use his sleeves as a muffler to keep his hands warm amid temperatures that on Wednesday dipped to freezing with the wind chill factored in. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis holds up an Olympic T-shirt with his name on it given to him in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, July 25, 2013. Francis blessed the Olympic flag, visited a slum and will address young Roman Catholics in Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach on Thursday, as Latin America's first pope continued his inaugural international trip as pontiff. The shirt was given to him by Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee. (AP Photo/Luca Zennaro, Pool)
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Pope Francis canceled his morning audiences Friday because of a cold, the first time the industrious pope is known to have slowed his busy schedule due to illness. The Vatican said the 76-year-old pontiff, who lost most of one of his lungs due to an infection in his youth, took the morning off to rest at his Vatican hotel. He kept his afternoon appointment, however, presiding over the ordination of a new bishop in St. Peter's Basilica. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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By this summer, he also plans to release an encyclical, or teaching document, on climate change, which he says is mostly manmade. He plans to use his trip to the U.S. to urge world leaders to take bold steps to curb global warming ahead of this fall's U.N. climate change conference in Paris.
Republicans have battled Obama's efforts to make it easier for many immigrants in the U.S. illegally to remain in the country, and want to strengthen border security to keep more of them out. Many of them have also opposed efforts to reduce pollutants that contribute to global warming.
Francis, 78, has shown a willingness to publicly call on political leaders to follow some of his values. In a pair of speeches to European leaders last November, he urged them to create jobs and help immigrants gain acceptance.
"We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery," he said, referring to the thousands of immigrants annually who try reaching Europe across that sea.
"He has a track record of challenging people," said Mathew Schmalz, a religious studies professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. "I don't think he'll be overawed by Congress."
Democrats may not be immune to Francis' views, either.
He has condemned abortion and the use of artificial contraception, and called marriage between a man and a woman a "fundamental pillar" of society. However, he has not emphasized these issues as much as immigration and poverty.
Boehner's announcement follows his controversial invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address Congress about Iran on March 3, two weeks before he seeks re-election. Boehner made that offer without consulting Obama, angering the White House and congressional Democrats.
At the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Obama said he was eager to welcome the pope to the U.S.
"Like so many people around the world, I've been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable," the president said.
Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Washington and New York during a 2008 trip. That visit included a meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House, a celebration of Mass at Nationals Park and a speech at Catholic University.
Paul VI became the first pope to visit the United States with a 1965 trip that included an appeal for peace at the United Nations at the height of the Vietnam War. He did not travel to Washington during the visit.
Associated Press writers Nicole Winfield in Rome, Rachel Zoll in New York and David Espo, Donna Cassata and Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.