, WASHINGTON, United States, Sep 23 – Pope Francis arrived in the United States for his first visit — a historic six-day trip during which his focus on consumerism, poverty and the marginalized risks appearing as a criticism of American society.
The 78-year-old Argentine pontiff stepped onto US soil for the first time at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, where he was greeted by US President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and their two daughters, after making a tour of communist-ruled Cuba.
US Catholic leaders and a select crowd of several hundred well-wishers were on hand to greet the pope, who wore his traditional papal whites and waved to the crowd, who chanted: “Ho ho, hey hey, welcome to the USA.”
A small group of children from Catholic schools in the Washington area were brought forward to welcome the pontiff.
Obama will host the Jesuit pope at the White House on Wednesday.
“When the president sits down with Pope Francis tomorrow in the Oval Office, the president will not arrive at that meeting with a political agenda,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
“This is an opportunity for two men who have so many values in common to talk about the efforts that they are making in their respective and quite different roles to advance those shared values.”
Asked at a briefing why Obama has gone to “these lengths” to greet the pope, Earnest said “Pope Francis, we have seen, has really struck a chord in people not just across the United States but around the world. He serves as a source of inspiration not just for Catholics but of people of frankly all religions around the world.”
Francis will make two key speeches during his visit, addressing Congress on Thursday and the United Nations on Friday.