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Pope Francis to visit White House during trip to the US

The Pope and president meet in 2014 (PA)

Pope Francis is to meet President Barack Obama when he makes his first visit to the US in September.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will welcome the Pope to the White House on September 23.

“During the visit, the president and the Pope will continue the dialogue which they began during the president’s visit to the Vatican in March 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues,” said a White House statement issued today.

Those issues, it said, include “caring for the marginalised and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities”.

The statement added: “The president looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as Pope.”

When they first met last year Pope Francis received the president at the Vatican for a discussion that touched on several areas of tension between the Catholic Church and the White House, including religious freedom and medical ethics.

During an unusually long 50-minute meeting, the two leaders discussed “questions of particular relevance for the church in [the USA], such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection as well as the issue of immigration reform,” the Vatican said in a statement afterwards.

Pope Francis will become the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress on September 24.

On his flight from the Philippines to Rome in January, Pope Francis said he would canonise Blessed Junipero Serra at Washington’s Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

On September 25 Pope Francis will address the UN General Assembly. He will also meet separately with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and with the president of the General Assembly, and is scheduled to meet UN staff in a town hall gathering.

In a statement, Ban Ki-Moon noted that the Pope’s visit came during the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, in which its members would make decisions about sustainable development, climate change and peace. He said he was confident the Pope’s visit would inspire the international community to redouble its efforts for social justice, tolerance and understanding.

Pope Francis will participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on September 26 and 27.

The Vatican is expected to release the official itinerary of the Pope’s visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia about two months in advance of the trip.

During his pontificate, St John Paul II visited the United States seven times – two of which were fuel stopovers – making the country his most frequent foreign destination after his native Poland. He addressed the UN General Assembly in 1979 and 1995; Blessed Paul VI did so in 1965 and Pope Benedict XVI addressed the assembly in 2008, during his one US visit as Pope.