Arriving at the White House with the usual pomp and ceremony but without a 21-gun salute, Pope Francis was welcomed by President Barack Obama on behalf of the American people on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. Then, commenting on the unusually large crowd on the White House’s south lawn, the President quipped, “I should explain that our backyard is not typically this crowded but the size and spirit of today’s gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics. It reflects, as well, the way that your message of love and hope has inspired so many people across our nation and around the world.”
Then the President observed, “Today, we mark many firsts. Your Holiness, you have been celebrated as the first Pope from the Americas. This is your first visit to the United States. And you are also the first pontiff to share an encyclical through a Twitter account.”
Responding, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for President Obama’s welcome and referring to another first, his planned speech to a joint session of Congress, the Pope said “As a brother of this country, [I hope] to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles.” Continuing, 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. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people
Assuring the President that, “together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” The Pope adding a political note continued, “With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty … and, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
In reference to the President’s efforts on behalf of climate change, Pope Francis had words of commendation. “Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. 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 … our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies.”
The reception concluded with a march-by of the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps followed by a parade of units from all the military services.
This post is also available in/Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish