Papal p’s and q’s for Congress coming ahead of pope’s Capitol Hill visit

WASHINGTON — U.S. House officials are busily cobbling together a papal primer for members of Congress who may not know exactly how to behave around the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis is set to address both chambers of Congress on Sept. 24 during his two-day visit to D.C. And Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic from Ohio who invited the pope to speak to Congress, is working with the U.S. State Department, the Vatican and his own Sergeant of Arms protocol experts to draft guidance for members of the House and Senate, congressional correspondent for Bloomberg News Billy House tells WTOP.

“There is some concern that some might not know exactly what to do,” House says of representatives and senators.

Although hugs and glad-handing are commonplace before and after the U.S. president gives his annual State of the Union speech, such behavior is not recommended when it’s the pope walking down the center aisle of the House Chamber, he says.

“You don’t address him until he addresses you,” House says.

Even what to call the pope might be awkward for some members, who don’t consider Pope Francis to be their “Holy Father,” House says.

Only 30 percent of Congress members consider themselves Catholic, he says.

Other advice members can be expected to hear is what to wear, whether they can applaud during his speech and whether they can cheer or jeer his remarks. And no, it’s not recommended that members hug the pope.

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