Pope Francis tours DC, pontificates on immigration & climate change (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
On a bright, breezy Wednesday morning, a crowd of 15,000 ‒ with many more watching on television ‒ gathered in the sunshine on the White House South Lawn to greet the pontiff and listen to what he had to say.
The pope began his speech to the American people, given in tentative English, by talking about immigration.
“I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families,” he said.
He then called on America to build “a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive,” and that safeguards the rights of its people and communities, as well as rejecting “every form of unjust discrimination.”
“Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our ‘common home’, we are living at a critical moment of history,” said the pope, known for his criticism of human behavior as a cause of climate change.
He also added that the public needed to do more to help those around them.
“Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them,” Pope Francis said.
He concluded his remarks by calling for “cooperation within our human family” to bring about “positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom.”
Pope Francis and Obama subsequently met in the Oval Office, where they discussed their common causes of fighting income inequality, promoting social justice and preventing climate change. However, the two leaders disagree on other social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion.
After leaving the White House, the pontiff is set to embark on a parade around downtown DC in his custom Jeep Wrangler, “Popemobile.”
People began gathering along the parade route at 4 a.m. local time, passing through four security entrances.
Street vendors hawked special merchandise celebrating the pope’s first US trip.
Thousands of people lined the parade route, as Pope Francis traveled from the White House along the Ellipse and National Mall, passing by the Washington Monument before returning to the Executive Mansion.
After his eight-block jaunt in the Popemobile, the pontiff left for St. Matthew Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. He was joined by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the District’s archbishop.
Inside the cathedral, Pope Francis prayed in Latin with about 300 bishops from the United States. He then spoke to the gathering in Italian.
Although two-thirds of Americans, regardless of religion, view Pope Francis favorably, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll, he does face some detractors. Half a dozen protesters staged a “lie-in,” calling for the ordination of women priests in front of St. Matthew’s before the pope’s arrival there.
A small group of born-again Christians also demonstrated against the pontiff, calling him “an antichrist.”
Wednesday afternoon, Pope Francis hosted his first Mass in the US, conducting the service in his native Spanish in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
A crowd of 25,000 people greeted the Argentinian on the campus of the Catholic University of America.
Pope Francis then canonized Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan friar who founded several missions in California designed to bring the Catholic faith to the indigenous people there. It was the first canonization Mass on US soil.
Declaring Serra a saint drew criticism because of his harsh treatment of Native Americans. They were free to enter the missions he founded, but they would be flogged if they tried to flee. Critics also claim that the Serra and the rest of the Spanish colonizers of the New World spread diseases and destroyed native cultures.
Throughout the night, people continued sharing their brief encounters with the pope as he drove by.
Here are the pope's complete remarks at the White House.