That's exactly what we'll find out when Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress this September.
It was announced Thursday that Francis has accepted the invitation to speak on Capitol Hill, which will make him the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to do so. Pope Francis has done the unimaginable over and over again. He's washed and kissed the feet of young female and Muslim prisoners. He's gotten the Vatican talking about one-time taboos, such as welcoming gays and divorced members into the Church. He's even helped pave the way to opening U.S.-Cuba relations. Fixing the U.S. Congress, however, may require a miracle.
But just think of the possibilities. Could Pope Francis stop Republicans from voting to repeal Obamacare for the umpteenth time? Could he help us unsee the awkwardness of that kiss John Boehner planted on Nancy Pelosi's cheek? Could he get Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to duke it out in a Jimmy Fallon lip sync battle?
In all seriousness, who knows if there would be any "Francis effect" on Congress when he speaks. There are 164 Catholics in the new Congress, a 31 percent figure that's higher than the 22 percent of American adults. Yet he's been outspoken about a number of issues that could alternately put him at odds with Democrats or Republicans, from climate change to immigration to gay marriage.
Still, this is a man who has already shown an extraordinary capability to capture people's interest, lead by example and spark change. In describing the way Francis has engaged with the Catholic Church's critics and dissidents, Time wrote in its Person of the Year cover story that " 'argue less, accomplish more' could be a healing motto for our times. ... Francis says by example, Stop bickering and roll up your sleeves. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
Could Congress get the message?
That may be a tall order even for a man as lauded as this one. But take heart, Americans: Even if he doesn't succeed in warming up relations between Democrats and Republicans, this so-called SuperPope — an image he doesn't like — could still have a super impact, at least on some very American terms. One estimate forecasts his visit to the Philadelphia region (another stop on his U.S. tour) is expected to generate some $418 million in economic benefits, a figure that could outstrip the payoff for hosting the Super Bowl.