Pope Francis has landed on American soil. He landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington DC at 3.50pm local time kicking off the first visit of his life to the United States of America.
Pope Francis’ 10th Apostolic Journey abroad has already taken him to Cuba where he visited Havana, Holguin and Santiago. In the United States of America he will be spending time in Washington DC, in New York and in Philadelphia where the World Meeting of Families is taking place. Greeting him on the tarmac at the Washington Air Force Base, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. It is the first time in his presidency that Obama has greeted a visiting dignitary at the point of touchdown. Presidents usually have important visitors come to them, at the White House. However for Francis’s predecessor, the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, President George W. Bush and Laura Bush travelled to the air force base in Maryland to greet him.
This visit marks Pope Francis’ second meeting with President Obama whom he first met in the Vatican in March 2014. During his six-day, three-city visit to the U.S., Pope Francis will meet with Obama, address Congress, speak at the United Nations in New York and take part in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia where he will celebrate the closing Mass.
The Official Welcome Ceremony in Washington DC takes place on Wednesday morning at the White House. Some 15,000 people have been invited to attend the ceremony which is scheduled to take place on the South Lawn. Afterwards, the Pope and the President will hold talks in private in the Oval Office. Pope Francis’s Apostolic Visit to the US is packed with important events, including the first ever address from a Pope to Congress.
But it also includes many, more personal gestures, like meeting with immigrants, with prisoners and with the homeless. Those meetings which include the moments that Pope Francis clearly cherishes most, as time and time again, he reaches out to those struggling to hold on to the bottom rungs of society.