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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

By Scott Malone and Philip Pullella

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (Reuters) – Pope Francis arrived on his first visit to the United States on Tuesday, bringing to Washington a message that its power and wealth should be used to serve humanity, and not the other way around.

An Alitalia plane carrying the Argentine-born leader of the world’s 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic church touched down on a gray, blustery afternoon at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland after a flight from Cuba.

In a sign of the importance that the White House gives to the visit, President Barack Obama took the unusual step of greeting Francis on the tarmac. Obama, his wife Michelle Obama and their daughters shook the pope’s hand on the red carpet.

School children cheered the 78-year-old pontiff in his first moments on U.S. soil, chanting “Hello, hey, hey, welcome to the USA.”

On the plane from Cuba, Francis told reporters he hopes the United States will lift its long trade embargo on the Communist-run island as a result of negotiations between the two countries but does not plan to raise it in his address to the U.S. Congress this week.

“It is a public thing that is moving along the path of the good relations they are looking for,” said Francis, who helped broker behind the scenes a thaw between the Cold War foes.

“My desire is that they end up with a good result, that they reach an accord that satisfies both sides, an accord, certainly.”

Francis largely avoided controversy during his four-day visit to Cuba. The government had hoped Francis would condemn the U.S. economic embargo, which Obama is urging the Republican-controlled Congress to end.

Obama and the pope meet more formally on Wednesday at the White House. The pope will then parade past Washington’s major monuments before a crowd expected to reach tens of thousands.

The pope has electrified liberal-leaning U.S. Catholics with his shift in emphasis towards forgiveness and concern for the poor. He has dismayed some conservative followers with comments of concern over climate change and a pivot away from messages focused on the church’s ban on birth control and opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Francis is also expected to talk about immigration during his six-day visit, a top issue for him since his first days as pope in 2013.

He will make the first address by any pope to the U.S. Congress on Thursday, a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Friday and an open-air Mass in Philadelphia where 1.5 million people are expected to attend.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) welcomes Pope Francis to the United States as the Pontiff shakes hands with dignitaries upon his arrival at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington September 22, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

  • bcarreiro

    Please Mr Pope Francis enlighten our Congress to equality and fairness. Greed can overpower love if we allow it.

  • Dominick Vila

    I expect most people with a sense of humanity, and true Christian values, to embrace the message being conveyed by Pope Francis. Only the most callous, greedy, and materialistic persons among us can object to a message centered on loving thy fellow man, helping the poor, helping the sick, helping the elderly, and loving our children. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take the likes of Rush Limbaugh and some charlatans at FOX to do exactly that.
    I can’t say that I am surprised or upset with the claims of socialism, or the innuendo about pervasive plots between a man whose spiritual values range from listening to Rev. Wright, to being a Muslim in hiding, and now a Jesuit devotee plotting with the Pope on the most effective way to destroy America.
    The scope, viciousness, and insanity of Republican rhetoric will never cease to amaze me. No wonder the Pope’s visit is eliciting a level of security that was not evident when the Pope visited other countries throughout the world, including Cuba!

  • jamesowens

    I e keeps taking that way the %ers will have him wacked

    • Karen Bille-Golden

      A horrible thought that should not have been voiced

  • Karen Bille-Golden

    As I listened to the speeches by the Pope and President Obama on the White House lawn this morning, I couldn’t help but be reminded of past transgressions of the Catholic church throughout history. I am thankful today for Pope Francis and for the lucidity and heartfelt honesty with which he will be speaking in the coming days. We all need to pause and reflect.

    • Dennis Price

      The differences are startling. On one hand you have doom, gloom, hatred and bigotry all while claiming to be “Christians” and on the other you have the message of hope, forgiveness, promise and charity from President Obama and Pope Francis, the true message of Christianity.

      • jamesowens

        well said and the greedy still condemn them both with their lies