Pope Francis has just delivered his speech to a joint session of Congress. He is the first Pope, and the first religious leader, to speak on Capitol Hill – in many ways the epicentre of US politics. Sitting behind him during the address were John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, and Joe Biden, the US vice-president. Both are Catholic. Read more
While the US prepares to welcome Pope Francis, his new world origins, drive for Vatican reform, and calls for social justice and action against climate change have enthused – and shaken – Catholics around the world. The Argentine pontiff arrives for his first trip to America at a time of declining Catholic congregations and with a society that has become more liberal than the church on many social issues.
The Catholic share of the US population has been declining at a slow rate in recent decades, but a Pew study released this year raised fears that the pace of the drop has accelerated since 2007. According to the survey, it had fallen to 20.8 per cent in 2014, from 23.9 per cent seven years earlier underlining the challenge facing Pope Francis. Read more
Pope Francis landed in the US around 4pm on Tuesday afternoon after a three-and-a-half hour flight from eastern Cuba, to be greeted on the tarmac of Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland by the Obamas and Bidens. The Argentine pontiff then hopped into a black Fiat 500L – an incongruous sight in a motorcade of SUVs and another symbol of Francis’ modest ways – headed to the residence of the Vatican envoy to the US, on Massachusetts Avenue in northwest Washington, where he will spend the night.
His schedule will be packed over the five days of his first ever visit to America: there will be high-profile speeches to Congress and the UN, a series of masses, and appearances at a prison, a homeless shelter and an inner-city school. Read more
Are Americans more on board with President Barack Obama’s efforts to clinch massive deals with the Pacific Rim and the European Union than most Democratic lawmakers give him credit for?
This week, the well-respected, bipartisan, NBC-WSJ poll found that 44 per cent of Americans were more likely to vote for a member of Congress who “favours new trade agreements with other countries”, compared to 20 per cent who said they were less likely to; 34 per cent said it made no difference, and 2 per cent were unsure. Read more
Sandra Pianalto, who has served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, announced she will be retiring early next year after being in the job for a decade.
Ms Pianalto’s departure may not mean too much for monetary policy. She is known for being a centrist, predictable official on the Federal Open Market Committee, backing the chairman’s view without offering positions that are either too dovish or too hawkish.
Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman, issued an effusive statement on Thursday: “Sandy has been a remarkable colleague who has made invaluable contributions to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the Federal Reserve System, and the country. We will miss her thoughtful insights and leadership across a broad range of issues, including monetary policy, payments policy, and community development.” Read more