Pope Francis arrives in the United States on Tuesday amid raging partisan debates in Congress over abortion, immigration and climate change, giving him an extraordinary platform from which to influence — and roil — lawmakers of both parties.
The politics of the pope's visit, which includes a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, a speech before the U.N. General Assembly, and a first-ever papal address to Congress, will be further complicated by a presidential election in which matters of faith have featured prominently, and sharp lines have already been drawn over the Vatican's recent softer tone.
His two-year-old papacy has been defined so far by a change in tenor, not doctrine, watchers say. He sent shock waves through the church by responding in 2013 to a question about gay priests by asking, "Who am I to judge?" He has also been vocal on immigration, calling last year's surge of Central American children into the United States a "humanitarian emergency."