Skip to Content

Pope Francis addresses a Congress that’s 30% Catholic

US-VATICAN-RELIGION-POPE-CONGRESSUS-VATICAN-RELIGION-POPE-CONGRESS
Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress Thursday.Photograph by Paul J. Richards — AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis on Thursday morning became the first-ever pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.

When he appeared before United States lawmakers in the Capitol, Francis was addressing 164 of his own.

That’s how many Catholics are in the 114th Congress. They make up 30% of the legislature compared to 22% of American adults overall, according to The Pew Research Center. Catholics in Congress are outnumbered only by Protestants—there are 306 such members.

A staggering 91.8% of Congress identifies as Christian, a figure that far surpasses the share of American adults who say they belong to the religion—73%. Just o.2% of lawmakers are unaffiliated with a religion, versus 20% of the nation overall. Members of Congress have speculated that their high religiosity is related to what’s expected of them.

“Maybe it has something to do with the magnitude of issues we deal with up here and people realize that you can’t do that without a degree of reliance on spiritual need,” said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina told NPR. Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, suggested that it has to do with the need for “solid grounding” and the “good guidance that we get from above.”

Following Christianity, Judaism has the most members in Congress—28. Here’s a full breakdown of faith on Capitol Hill, per Pew.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 9.14.40 AM