COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Many from the Chattahoochee Valley received special invites to hear Pope Francis speak at the first-ever joint address to Congress by a Pope including a Catholic priest from Phenix City.
Father Tom Weiss declined his invitation to Washington because of the possibility of not being able to get close enough to see Pope Francis, not for ideological reasons.
However, he's excited to see how people in the country are reacting to the visiting pope, the first in more than seven years.
Father Weiss, 79, is a retired Pastor of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church in Phenix City. He has been in the Phenix City for 22 years.
In fact, Father Tom Weiss has seen many popes in his life, and even attended Pope John Paul II's funeral.
"I have been in the presence of Benedict and I gave John Paul a great big hug. But he was charismatic too, but not as open to the people," said Weiss.
Weiss says the current Pope of the Catholic Church is much different. He had a chance to visit Pope Francis in Israel last May.
"He's very personable and charismatic and lively. He's always smiling and very good to be around. He gives a certain assurance I think we need as Christian's today. He's showing that in the short time that he's been here," said Weiss.
He was invited to Pope Francis' speech to Congress but decided not to make the journey to the nation's capital. Weiss says he's waiting to hear and watch the head of his faith address some hot topics in the nation.
"I think there is a lot of discrimination against women in the world and a lot of glass ceilings, certainly in the church. I'd like to see that addressed. And couples that are in a marriage that they didn't intend. I think the church needs to extend a lot more mercy."
Pope Francis met with President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
"I hope they will agree on a greater quality of life for every man, woman and child. Born and unborn," said Weiss.
Weiss says this historic trip sends a message of hope, forgiveness and mercy. Father Weiss says the Spanish coordinator at Saint Patrick's was also invited to hear the pope speak and is in Washington, DC.