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Source: ALBERTO PIZZOLI / Getty

WASHINGTON — People began gathering before dawn on the West Lawn of the Capitol to see Pope Francis’ address to a joint meeting of Congress.

Giant video screens are set up for people to watch the first address by a Pope to Congress, which is set to start at 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, the National Mall between 3rd and 7th streets is playing host to the Moral Action on Climate rally, which features a list of speakers as well as performers including Moby and Natasha Bedingfield, which began at about 7:30.

Those traveling to Union Station, Judiciary Square, Capital South or Federal Center SW stations should add extra time to their commutes this morning as the pope comes to Capitol Hill. 

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel says so far so good, but let’s not jinx it. “We know we’re not out of the woods,” Stessel says. 

Metro had an 18 percent decrease in ridership yesterday, Stessel says, possibly because of telecommuting workers. However, after a relatively hiccup-free day yesterday, he thinks people may try to come into the office today. And that may increase the crowds using public transportation.

Stessel says more than 15,000 people came through Brookland Station yesterday, and a number of stations may be feeling that pressure today. Union Station, Judiciary Square, Capital South and Federal Center SW stations should expect a major increase in foot traffic today.

While Francis’ environmental views may not find much favor when he stands in the U.S. House chamber, controlled by Republicans and conservatives, his views on religious freedom and protection of the family likely will.

During the event, which will be broadcast to a ticketed-only crowded on the West Front Lawn of the U.S.Capitol, a rally in support of climate action is set to be held simultaneously on the National Mall between 7th and 3rd streets. That event is open and free to the general public. 

Later in the morning, Pope Francis is set to visit St. Patrick’s Church downtown, where he’ll meet with clients of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Then, he’ll have a private lunch with the St. Maria Meals program.

He’ll take a break in the afternoon before heading to New York City for the second leg of his U.S. tour. 

source:  WTOP.com