WASHINGTON (AP) — Pope Francis’ historic visit to the White House next week will leave some Jews out.
The spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics is making a brief stop at the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Barack Obama, part of Francis’ first visit to the U.S. But Wednesday is also Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for Jews.
The day’s themes are atonement and repentance, and Jews traditionally spend the day fasting and in intensive prayer, often participating in religious services for most of the day.
Jews will be able to participate in other parts of the pope’s Washington visit, as well as the New York and Philadelphia legs of his historic trip. Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday and makes other stops in the U.S. capital before heading to New York to continue his schedule.
“The Holy Father has a very complicated schedule for this trip, so we worked with that schedule as best we could,” Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, told reporters during a telephone call to preview the visit.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser for Obama, said the pope’s schedule was partly driven by his attendance at a conference in Philadelphia and the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, both of which were scheduled close to Yom Kippur.
“The Vatican was very accommodating, and we were very focused on ensuring that the American Jewish community would be able to participate in important interfaith efforts to be a part of this visit of the pope,” Rhodes said.