Pope Francis in Washington, DC – Day 1...
A Pope, A Saint, and a President
No, this is not the beginning of a joke. It’s actually a summary of Pope Francis’s first full day in Washington, DC. The first stop on his schedule was a visit to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama. But, as it turns out, the pope actually started his day in his usual off-the-script manner.
As he prepared to leave the Vatican embassy, the pope made a quick stop to greet students of local Catholic schools who have been marking his departures and arrivals at the embassy. After making his way down the row, greeting each student, Pope Francis finally got in to a Fiat. The dichotomy wasn’t lost on those present, some of whom referred to the pope as “the big man in the small car.”
At the White House, Pope Francis began his address, saying, “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 went on to hit on the topics of climate change, religious freedom, and our need to care for the least among us, invoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
After his meeting with President Obama, the pope traveled to Washington’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for midday prayer with the US bishops. The pope reminded the bishops to “flee the temptation of narcissism” and that “harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor.” Encounter and dialogue, he said, must be the hallmarks of a bishop’s interactions with others, especially with those who hold differing opinions.
The day culminated in the canonization Mass for Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra (a gathering outside the Mass is pictured above), the first saint canonized on US soil. During his homily, Pope Francis noted that Serra’s motto, “always forward, never to turn back,” is a challenge all Catholics should heed. The pope urged those present to “keep moving forward!”
Notable Quotes from Day 1
Address at the White House
“Mr. President, 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. 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. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.”
Homily at the canonization of Junipero Serra
“The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.”
The Crowd Reaction from Day 1
The air in D.C. was abuzz with anticipation surrounding Pope Francis’s arrival, but there was especially an overwhelming feeling of excitement for those waiting to see the pope at the canonization of Junipero Serra.
The White House address received a tremendous amount of coverage. There were many takeaways from his speech, particularly about climate change and quoting Dr. King.
Perhaps the most touching story from day one was that of little Sofía Cruz, 5, of Los Angeles, who went out in the street to give the pope a letter about her family and the issue of immigration. It goes to show that even the smallest can impact this world.
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