Pope Francis arrived in the United States Tuesday on his first visit, bringing to Washington a message that its power and wealth should be used to serve humanity, Reuters reported.
Bestowing on Francis an honor that few foreign dignitaries receive, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden personally greeted the 78-year-old Argentine on the tarmac after the papal plane landed at Joint Base Andrews near the capital.
Obama, his wife and their daughters shook the pope’s hand on the red carpet.
The six-day visit gives Francis an opportunity to deliver his message of compassion and simplicity to the world’s richest and most powerful country.
The first Latin American pope has electrified liberal-leaning US Catholics, Democrats and many non-Catholics with a shift in emphasis toward concern for the poor and immigrants and his appeals for action against climate change.
But his criticism of unbridled capitalism has unsettled US conservatives.
In keeping with his unpretentious style, the pontiff left the air base for Washington in a small Fiat car, in contrast to the long motorcades of large SUVs used by US presidents.
Francis will give the first speech by any pope to the US Congress on Thursday and an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday.
He will celebrate an open-air mass in Philadelphia that 1.5 million people are expected to attend.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, whom conservatives have accused of being too liberal, said his pleas for social justice were based on church teachings.
“I am sure that I have not said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” he told reporters on the plane carrying him from Cuba, where he met former and current leaders Fidel and Raul Castro.
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