If Pope Francis comes to Philadelphia next year, House Speaker John Boehner would like for him to take some time to come a little farther down I-95 and address a joint meeting of Congress.
The speaker says he has extended an open and formal invitation to the pontiff, who he feels has inspired millions with his pastoral manner and servant leadership.
The invitation is short and states:
"It is my honor as Speaker, and on behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, to extend to you as head of state of the Holy See an open invitation to appear before and address a Joint Meeting of the two houses of Congress assembled in the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives."
Pope Francis has expressed a desire to visit Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in September of 2015, but has not formally committed to the trip. Later this month, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput leads a delegation of political and civic leaders who will travel to the Vatican to plan for the World Meeting of Families event. They will also have a private audience with Pope Francis and plan to use that time in an effort to persuade the pope to participate in the WMOF.
Boehner's invitation to Pope Francis comes on the one-year anniversary of the pope's election.
"His social teachings, rooted in 'the joy of the gospel,' have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom, and social justice," Boehner said in a statement.
NBC10 will travel to Rome ahead of the Philadelphia delegation to report on planning meetings as the city prepares to host the Eighth World Meeting of Families from September 22-27, 2015 and the delegation's efforts to persuade Pope Francis to visit.
This will be the first time the WMOF is held in the United States. It was launched in 1994 and is held every three years. The theme for the Philadelphia event will be determined when the delegation is in Rome.
"We will talk about problems families have today, but we want to be very positive about the family," Archbishop Chaput said earlier this month when he announced the trip to Rome. "We hope to have all kinds of ways of helping families avail themselves of grace and holiness."
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who is among the delegates traveling to the Vatican from March 24-27, said if the Pope does visit Philadelphia, he would expect one million visitors to the city and estimates the economic impact could reach into the range of $100 million.