Politics

Pope Francis’ address to Congress a hot ticket in Washington

Pope Francis waves after his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Pope Francis waves after his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday. AP

Pope Francis heads to the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 24. And suddenly members of Congress, with their notoriously low approval ratings, are quite popular with Francis fans eager to score a ticket.

“I feel like a scalper for a Taylor Swift concert,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, quipped. “These tickets are hot commodities.”

Each member of the U.S. House and Senate is allowed a single guest to be inside the chambers for the pontiff’s address. For some politicians, that makes for an easy choice: Florida Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, are all bringing their wives, their offices said.

But others have gone outside their families.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, invited Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who said he quickly accepted. Wenski plans to travel to the three cities Francis will visit: Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, invited a Collier County constituent: Ed Morton, a devout Catholic who serves on the Florida Board of Regents.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona will attend thanks to her pal, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston asked her friend, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

“Gabby is excited to bear witness as the most popular person in the world delivers a charge to the United States Congress, a body with real power to improve the lives of families across our great country,” Giffords spokesman Mark Prentice said. “For Catholics and non-Catholics, Spanish-speakers and non-Spanish speakers, this will be an unforgettable moment in our nation’s history.”

Several members’ offices queried about their guests did not respond to the Miami Herald. A spokesman for Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, said the office wasn't sure yet.

How did members pick the lucky winners?

Ros-Lehtinen went with first-come, first-served.

1Each member of Congress gets to invite a single guest.

“A young staffer in my D.C. office, Anthony Travieso, was the first person to request my ticket and because he is a proud graduate of Christopher Columbus High School in my district and is a devout Catholic, I gave that cherished and much sought after ticket to Anthony,” she said in a statement.

But there were also requests to get a glimpse of Francis elsewhere: Ros-Lehtinen said each member of Congress was given 52 additional tickets — 50 for admittance to the west lawn of the National Mall during Francis’ speech, one to for the Capitol’s lower west terrace and one to watch a telecast from the Cannon House Office Building.

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