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In less than 24 hours, the office of Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, gave away all 50 of its free tickets to see Pope Francis in a historic address next month.

The pope will speak at a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24, marking the first time a pope has spoken at a meeting of Congress.

He will have a massive audience: Each member of Congress was given about 50 tickets to offer their constituents.

Perry announced Monday that he had tickets to give away on a first-come first-served basis, and they were gone by Tuesday, said deputy chief of staff Bob Reilly.

"I'm very pleased by the overwhelming response we received to Pope Francis' address to Congress on Sept. 24," Perry said Tuesday in an email. "I look forward to sharing this historic day with my constituents."

Ideologically at odds: "He's looking forward to the speech," said Reilly of Perry.

The congressman "may not agree with everything the pope has said in his tenure, but he's spread a message of humble service, inspired millions and sparked a vigorous debate," Reilly said.

Perry was opposed to President Barack Obama's mending U.S. relations with Cuba, an action in which the pope was a key figure.

And in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si, the pope focused on humanity's troubled relationship with the environment. He stressed the disproportionate impact of climate change on the world's poorest countries, addressing it as a social-justice issue, and advocated global cooperation among all countries to address the problem of climate change.

Perry "believes the climate is changing," said Reilly, "but he doesn't think that government intervention to the point that the president is advocating is appropriate."

In a July 8 subcommittee hearing "examining the Department of Homeland Security's misplaced focus on climate change," Perry said, "I am shocked that the Department of Homeland Security continues to make climate change a top priority."

He denied the DHS assertion that climate change is a "threat multiplier" and said he wondered whether the department's emphasis on the importance of considering climate change in its strategic planning was based in "fact or propaganda."

According to Reilly, Perry is concerned that acting to combat climate change could negatively impact an "already weakened" economy.

Pope Francis has criticized consumer culture and advocated a recalibration of values to take into consideration the interdependence of life on Earth.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.

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