Pope Francis will be visiting the city at the heart of American politics next week, but he is more likely to discuss the importance of leadership and how it can better humanity than to favor or oppose specific issues or legislation.
The pope arrives at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday afternoon. His activities for the next two days include a visit to the White House, a speech to a joint session of Congress, a parade and stops at local churches and charities. He then heads to New York City and Philadelphia.
Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said that although Pope Francis hasn't changed a single church position, his simplicity and humility endear him to many.
“With the exception of a very small percentage, he appeals to everyone,” she said.
Keehan, who has met the current pope twice, said he will probably offer plenty of constructive criticism to lawmakers and other leaders.
“He's challenged people almost like we've never been challenged before,” she said.
Keehan said she hopes Pope Francis finds time while in the capital to talk about universal health insurance, income inequality, and a true and fair justice system.
She also predicts he will discuss climate change and the importance of embracing scientific fact even if it is uncomfortable. Pope Francis issued a 184-page encyclical in June that said climate change is a real, moral issue that is being caused by human activity.
Abortion is likely to come up, but Keehan said she doesn't think the pope will endorse any specific legislation. He will probably talk about the value of life at all stages, including the impact of education and economic opportunity.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's promise to debate just before the pope's arrival a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks is unlikely to have an effect, she said.
“I don't think he'll pick sides,” she said.