Will Pope Francis take the US to task during his visit?

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Here's What The Pope Is Doing In America

The world's holiest diplomat arrives in the U.S. on Tuesday to begin his highly anticipated visit to the world's most powerful country – a place that in many ways embodies the antithesis of everything the charismatic Pope Francis has stood for during his two-year papacy.

Francis this year has been a pope on the periphery when it comes to his travels, visiting countries like Bolivia, Paraguay, the Philippines and Sri Lanka that aren't major players on the world stage.

Read more special coverage of the pope's visit: The significance of Pope Francis' visit with President Obama

His trip to the U.S. changes that, but whether it changes his message remains to be seen.

"He's coming to what is still the center of global economic, political, military power in the world. That presents him with a particular challenge. It will be interesting to see if he tones down ... some of the rhetoric that we've seen," says Andrew Chesnut, chair in Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. "How much will he calibrate ... his message to the dynamics of this country, which has a large middle-class population, compared to the countries in the developing world and the periphery where he's been lately?"

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Will Pope Francis take the US to task during his visit?
Pope Francis addresses the joint session of Congress on September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Pope is the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to address a joint meeting of Congress, including more than 500 lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and top administration officials including Vice President Joe Biden. AFP PHOTO/VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, making history as the first pontiff to do so. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Pope Francis arrives before addressing the joint session of Congress on September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Pope is the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to address a joint meeting of Congress, including more than 500 lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and top administration officials including Vice President Joe Biden. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress and will finish his tour of Washington later today before traveling to New York City. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Members of the House and Senate applause as Pope Francis begins his address before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, making history as the first pontiff to do so. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, right, speaks with Pope Francis in the U.S. Capitol building as the Pope arrives to deliver his speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Pool)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio greets Pope Francis on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, as the Pope arrived before addressing a joint meeting. (Bill Clark/Roll Call/ via AP, Pool)
Pope Francis places his hand atop a young boys head while the boy takes a selfie before the Pope departs the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in the heart of Washington, en route to the Capitol to address a joint meeting of Congress Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Pope Francis conducts Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Pope Francis, center, arrives inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, for the Canonization Mass of Blessed Junipero Serra. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Pope Francis stands at the alter of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel for a private prayer before participating in the Midday Prayer Service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015 . (Mark Wilson/Pool Photo via AP)
Seminarians greet Pope Francis, bottom center, as he walks into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, before holding a mass to canonize Junipero Serra. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Pope Francis, left, kisses the altar during a Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Pope Francis wave to the crowd on the South Lawn from the Truman Balcony of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, during a state arrival ceremony. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, President Barack Obama shakes with Pope Francis in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
Pope Francis give the thumbs-up from the popemobile during a parade around the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he rides in a popemobile along a parade route around the National Mall on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. Thousands of people gathered near the Ellipse to catch of glimpse of Pope Francis after he addressed an audience of 15,000 invited guests on the South Lawn of the White House during an official arrival ceremony with President Barack Obama. The Pope began his first trip to the United States at the White House followed by a visit to St. Matthew's Cathedral, and will then hold a Mass on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Spectators on the South Lawn of the White House watch as U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis during an arrival ceremony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Pope begins his first trip to the United States at the White House followed by a visit to St. Matthew's Cathedral, and will then hold a Mass on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Pope Francis holds the head of a small child as he leans from the popemobile during a parade, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the popemobile during a parade in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, following a state arrival ceremony at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
President Barack Obama talks with Pope Francis in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis walk through the Colonnade on their way to a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015. More than 15,000 people packed the South Lawn for a full ceremonial welcome on Pope Francis' historic maiden visit to the United States. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis to the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis after this welcoming speech during the state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama greets Pope Francis during an arrival ceromony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis to the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People listen as Pope Francis speaks during an arrival ceromony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - SEPTEMBER 23: Spectators gather near the Ellipse to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis along the route his Popemobile will take near the White House, September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Pope is on a three-day visit of Washington, D.C. as part of a larger visit to the U.S. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
Pope Francis speaks along side US President Barack Obama at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015. More than 15,000 people packed the South Lawn for a full ceremonial welcome on Pope Francis' historic maiden visit to the United States. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis speaks during at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis speaks during an arrival ceremony hosted by US President Barack Obama on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015. More than 15,000 people packed the South Lawn for a full ceremonial welcome on Pope Francis' historic maiden visit to the United States. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis to the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis to the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama hosts Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Pope Francis during a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Barack Obama greets Pope Francis as he arrives in Fiat 500L for a state arrival ceremony, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
People wave US and Vatican flags as they wait for the arrival of the Pope Francis at the White House in Washington DC on September 22, 2015. A crowd of thousands are stretched back across the gloriously sun-kissed South Lawn awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
People wait for the arrival of Pope Francis at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama will host Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis exits his car to greet the U.S. President Barack Obama and first Lady Michelle Obama in an arrival ceremony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Pope begins his first trip to the United States at the White House followed by a visit to St. Matthew's Cathedral, and will then hold a Mass on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves while he greets school children prior to his departure from the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in the heart of Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Pope Francis will visit the White House, becoming only the third pope to visit the White House. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Spectators hoping for a glimpse of Pope Francis crowd the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, before the official state arrival ceremony where President Barack Obama will welcome the pope. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A woman reacts as Pope Francis hugs her as he departs the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, en route to the White House where President Barack Obama will hot a state arrival ceremony. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
CROP OF DCCO110 * Pope Francis is kissed by a well-wisher as he departs the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in the heart of Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Pope Francis will visit the White House, becoming only the third pope to visit the White House. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Spectators hoping for a glimpse of Pope Francis waves Papal and U.S. Flags on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, before the official state arrival ceremony where President Barack Obama will welcome the pope. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Children of parents who work at the Lithuanian Embassy take selfies with Pope Francis as he departs the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Pope Francis will visit the White House where President Barack Obama will host a state arrival ceremony. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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Francis will meet with President Barack Obama and address Congress in Washington during his U.S. visit. He then travels to New York to speak at Madison Square Garden and the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly, before moving on to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

The pope has captured global attention for his disarming ability to speak his mind and take on injustice. He's frequently spoken out against the ills of capitalism and how it can endanger the most vulnerable, and will have the opportunity to directly address the topic as the first pope to speak in front of a joint meeting of Congress.

Read the pope's itinerary for the week: Pope Francis' schedule for his US visit

"He's very concerned that the modern economy is leaving behind more and more people," says Massimo Faggioli, director of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. "That is very difficult, to tell these kinds of truths to America, because it is the paradigm of modern capitalism and of a certain kind of kind of ruthless capitalism. Here it is, the most distant place from the idea that Catholic social teaching has on the economy."

Also on Francis' agenda has been the issue of climate change, which – like economic policy – is a contentious political issue in the U.S. It will also be at the fore at the U.N. General Assembly ahead of a global climate change conference in Paris in December. Earlier this year, Francis released an encyclical on the environment, urging the world to address the impact humans are having on the globe.

During his U.S. visit, Faggioli says Francis is likely to discuss the environment in an economic context rather than a scientific one. Such a message could strike at the heart of Republican opposition to efforts to curb climate change, as GOP lawmakers often argue rules pushed by the Obama administration will kill jobs and cost Americans in other ways.

"I think he will say what's happening is happening because we have distorted the few healthy mechanisms for the control of the market," Faggioli says. "That's what I think the encyclical is about. It's not about science."

The Catholic population in the U.S. is the fourth-largest in the world, but has declined as people have fallen away from the church, in part due to its stances on social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion. Liberal-leaning people of faith can have a hard time reconciling their personal beliefs on such issues with church doctrine that remains staunchly against them.

Francis, while not moving to change church doctrine nor going so far as to endorse abortion or gay marriage, has taken a markedly softer tone than his predecessors – an approach that's made the church appear more inclusive to many. When asked about gay priests in 2013, Francis famously said "Who am I to judge?" Earlier this month, he wrote in a letter that all priests during the church's coming Year of Mercy can absolve the sin of abortion.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, more than half of U.S. Catholics now think the church is "in touch" with their views, compared with just 34 percent who thought so in 2013, the year Francis was officially inaugurated.

READ MORE: Non-Catholics share their support for Pope Francis

"In that first interview he gave, he said the Catholic Church has become obsessed in some cases with sexuality, and I think he was talking about American bishops especially," Faggioli says. "That's something that many Catholics and most former Catholics were waiting for, for that kind of message. He's the embodiment of that. I think that makes him appealing again. And there's the whole idea that the Catholic Church is an advocate for the poor, is an advocate for the outcasts. That's something that you don't hear very often in our political system, so I think that is part of the Francis factor."

Thousands of allegations of sexual abuse involving Catholic priests also have driven people away from the religion, along with revelations that church leaders actively covered up the breadth of the scandal and guilty priests were not properly held accountable for their actions.

Though Francis is not officially scheduled to meet with survivors of church abuse, Chesnut says it's likely such a meeting could take place while the pope is in the U.S.

MORE COVERAGE: Why the pope resonates with young people more than the church

"I think there's a strong chance that he'll probably meet with victims of sexual abuse, particularly because that's, in my estimation, one of his weak points so far," Chesnut says. "Since the reporting and scandals really broke first here in the United States, I think there's a very good chance that's going to happen."

The pope certainly arrives in the U.S. at an interesting political moment, with not only abortion and gay rights still serving as flash points but as an immigration debate spurred by the 2016 presidential race also rages.

Francis, who is from Argentina and is most comfortable speaking Spanish, is expected to deliver just four of his 18 U.S. speeches in English. Latinos make up a third of Catholics in the U.S., and Francis' efforts to connect with them could fuel some of the organic moments that have made the pope famous.

"To some extent, that will make him feel more at home in this maiden trip to the U.S.," Chesnut says. "I would look for that kind off-the-cuff spontaneity, impromptu remarks and visits that we've seen in other contexts."

Francis already has spoken about the importance of welcoming immigrants, and has directly called upon Catholic parishes to take in Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn country. The Vatican itself plans to host two Syrian refugee families, and Francis is likely to make a direct appeal to the world when he addresses the U.N. in New York that more must be done to solve the crisis in Europe.

The pope also arrives in the U.S. directly after a trip to Cuba. Francis played a key role in the restoration of diplomatic ties between the UM.S. and the island nation, personally appealing to leaders of both countries to end an impasse that had prevailed for over 50 years. The U.S. and Cuba now have formal embassies in one another's capitals, but an economic embargo imposed on the island by the U.S. remains in place. The Vatican has long opposed the embargo, which it sees as an unjust punishment for the Cuban people, and Francis may raise this issue when he speaks in front of Congress.

"It's much easier to talk about inequalities and social justice issues in poor countries. It is more difficult to say those things in the most powerful country," Faggioli says. "Talking with poor people, for him, it's easier than talking to powerful people."

But, Faggioli says, "I think he will say what he thinks."

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