On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Pope Francis flew into the US for a five-day visit after his four-day jaunt to Cuba. During his first trip to the US, he visited Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia.
The pope’s visit to the US was much anticipated, especially because of his widespread support. Pope Francis is unique, in the sense that he has garnered respect from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His relatively progressive stances appeal to many liberal-minded people, which is rare coming from the head of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis’ charismatic nature has gained a following from the religious community and beyond, causing much excitement over his first visit to the US.
The pope, who is only the fourth to visit the US, arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday morning, where he was welcomed by the President and Vice President along with their families. The White House then had a welcome ceremony in honor of the pope on the South Lawn on the 23. In attendance were Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Representative Nancy Pelosi, all of whom are Catholics.
Pope Francis engaged in talks with President Obama, which included the White House’s efforts on climate change, something the pope is embracing. Pope Francis and the President refrained from talking about homosexuality or abortion during their discussions.
Later, he gave a speech to American bishops, in which he did bring up the issue of abortion. The pope explained that abortion was just one of many concerns, including children dying of hunger, immigrants “who drown in a search for a better tomorrow,” and a world in which humans have “a predatory relationship with nature.”
While in the White House, the pope also brought up the issue of immigration, relating it to his own family moving from Italy to Argentina. He said, “As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”
That day Pope Francis also canonized Junipero Serra, America’s first Hispanic saint. It was the first canonization to take place in the US. Inducting Serra into sainthood was met with opposition, with those against the act claiming Serra helped eradicate the Native American culture.
The following day Pope Francis spoke before a joint meeting of Congress, the first time a pope has done so. He referenced Americans like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, and urged the US to use its power to heal the “open wounds” the planet is facing. He stated, “Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples.” The pope concluded his speech with a phrase used to conclude many speeches: “God bless America.”
After his speech in front of Congress, Francis took a trip to Saint Patrick’s Church, where he met with the homeless, the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, and others served by Catholic charities.
Pope Francis left later that day, on the 24, for New York City, where he visited Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. On the 25, the pope met with members of the UN, rode through Central Park in the ‘popemobile,’ and visited Ground Zero.
He also headlined Madison Square Garden during his stay in New York. Before the pope went on stage, musicians like Jennifer Hudson and Harry Connick Jr., opened with religious themed songs. He held mass for an estimated audience of 20,000 people at the famed arena.
On Saturday morning, Pope Francis left the Big Apple and travelled to Philadelphia. Once he arrived, he held a morning mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul for approximately 1,600 people. During the mass, he spoke to the future of the Catholic Church’s presence in the US, saying that women should have a greater role in the Church’s leadership. The pope, however, has repeatedly rejected the idea of ordaining women.
He later gave a speech to about 40,000 outside of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. During his speech, he praised the American ideals of liberty and equality, saying “Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.” The pope also spoke to immigrants, assuring them that they are of value to America and telling them that they should celebrate their heritage.
Later that day, Pope Francis was cheered on by thousands at a music-and-prayer festival. The pope waved to onlookers from the ‘popemobile,’ as performers such as Aretha Franklin and Andrea Bocelli sang to the crowds.
On the 27, the pope’s final day in America, he met with over 300 bishops from around the world at St. Martins Chapel. He later visited the Curran-Fromhold Correctional facility, where he spoke to about 100 inmates and their families.
The pope concluded his trip with a mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which was preceded by a papal parade. One million people were in attendance during Pope Francis’ centerpiece and final event of his visit.
After the mass, Pope Francis left for Atlantic Aviation, where he flew back to the Vatican. His visit to Philadelphia concluded his much-anticipated and first trip to the US.
(Sources: NY Times, CNN, USA Today, Fox News)