WASHINGTON (ABC NEWS) – Pope Francis officially stepped foot on U.S. soil for the first time on Tuesday.
The pontiff’s arrival is the start of his six-day historic trip to the United States. It is his first time ever in the country, and he’s the fourth pope to visit the U.S.
Pope Francis was greeted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at Andrews Air Force Base just before 4 p.m. More than 1,000 people awaited his arrival on the tarmac.
He’s the first Latin American pope, a Jesuit and former archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has been hailed as revolutionary by some. Others believe he has strayed too far from the church’s conservative traditions.
The pope will visit Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City over six days. He will meet with Obama at the White House on Wednesday, and on Thursday, he will address Congress, a papal first.
Pope Francis is expected to talk about income inequality, immigration and climate change.
The biggest event in the nation’s capital will be a mass of canonization for Junipero Sera. Twenty-five thousand people will attend the ceremony for the 18th Century Franciscan monk, the first person made a Catholic saint on U.S. soil.
The pope’s visit is an immense security operation – one of the largest in U.S. history. Thousands are expected to try and catch a glimpse of the pope and more than 1 million are expected to gather for an outdoor mass.
Nearly 70 million Americans, or 22 percent, identify themselves as Catholics. Among them, Pope Francis is immensely popular. He’s been credited with making significant, and to some, much needed change.
For the first time in 20 years, a majority of American Catholics said the church is in touch with their views, and nine in ten said they approve the direction Francis is taking the church.
True to his humble nature, the visit will not just be about VIP meetings and large speeches. Instead of dining with members of Congress on Wednesday, Pope Francis will leave Capitol Hill and head to lunch with homeless people in a tent outside.