Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, is preparing for his six-day tour of the United States beginning on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 with stops planned in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. This will be Pope Francis’ first ever trip to the United States. Pope Francis will be the fourth pope to ever visit the United States with the last visit being from Pope Benedict XVI, who came in 2008, and visited Washington and New York.
Upon arrival in Washington on Tuesday, Pope Francis will be greeted by the President and First Lady. President Barack Obama and the pope will be meeting at the White House the following morning. Francis will hold the first-ever canonization mass on U.S. soil for 25,000 ticket holders at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 4:15pm on Wednesday. The United States Congress will welcome Pope Francis in a joint session before he heads to New York on Friday.
When visiting St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, Pope Francis will be blessing food for the homeless and poor for a catholic charity called St. Maria’s Meals. The charity offers three weekly food programs in the Washington area. They plan to have 55 tables set up for the poor and homeless to be served lunch as the Pope blesses the food and walks among them. Pope Francis is known for his love of working with the needy and it is expected he will make unscheduled stops to speak with the homeless or disabled when he sees an opportunity.
The pope will also be visiting St. Matthew’s Cathedral and the Capitol Building while in Washington.
In New York, Pope Francis will give his address to the United Nationals General Assembly. Currently, there are fliers posted all over the city urging people to “rally with Pope Francis in the call to moral action for climate justice,” a topic he will address at the assembly. Francis is expected to put an emphasis on climate change while in the United States due to the size of the country and its global influence. Pope Francis is also expected to speak about criminal justice during his stop in Philadelphia, in a way that calls for Obama to stop imprisoning nonviolent offenders for so long.
Also while in New York, Pope Francis will be leading a procession through Central Park where about 80,000 tickets were awarded by the city in a lottery pick. A mass will be held in Madison Square Garden after the procession. He will also make stops at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and Our Lady Queen of Angels School.
Pope Francis will be meeting with the triennial World Meeting of Families while in Philadelphia on Saturday at Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This is largest meeting of Catholic families and is held every three years. The pope can also been seen at Independence Mall, Atlantic Aviation, Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, and St. Martin’s Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. A mass will be held at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Saturday morning. Another mass will be held with the World Meeting of Families Sunday at 4pm. Pope Francis will depart back to Rome at 8pm on Sunday evening.
Pope Francis is spending several days in Cuba before his trip to America. On Sunday, the pope led a huge Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square. He spoke to over 200,000 Cubans about serving people, not ideas, which many consider a critique of Cuba’s socialist revolution.
Pope Francis also met with former Cuban President Fidel Castro for about 40 minutes and spoke with him about religion and world affairs. Pope Francis gave Castro two books on spirituality and a book and CD on the writings of Father Armando Llorente, a priest who taught Castro in school more than 70 years ago. The meeting was said to be relaxed and friendly. Pope Francis is the first Latin American Pope.
Last year, the U.S. and Cuba decided to have relations again after 50 years hugely in part to the help of Pope Francis. While in Cuba this past weekend, Pope Francis came with a message to ask for U.S. and Cuba to do more and continue to strengthen and improve their relationship. Pope Francis has asked President Obama to lift sanctions on Cuba while also requesting Cuba to “open itself to the world”. He has been an integral part of thawing tensions between the two countries.
Throughout his career, Pope Francis has been known for his concern for the poor, his humility, and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He is less formal than his predecessors and has been dubbed as the “People’s Pope”. For Americans, he is overwhelmingly adored by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Pope Francis as seen as an agent of change, with a majority of Catholics saying that the church is in touch with them – a reversal from two years ago when 60% said the church was out of sync. Pope Francis is also a social media star, with 22 million Twitter followers. The pope has spoken out on issues like economic inequality, immigration, climate change and criminal justice reform.
Pope Francis is arriving to the United States during a time where Catholics are playing a large role at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Currently, six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic as well as 31 percent of the members of Congress. Joseph Biden Jr. is the nation’s first Catholic vice president.
Security for Pope Francis’ three-city tour of America will involve tens of thousands of police, military and counterterrorism personnel operating under the umbrella of the Secret Service. Each member of the security team went to Rome to research how to protect the Pope. In New York alone, there will be at least 7,000 uniformed officers on the streets, with several thousand undercover officers also being deployed. In all three cities, the pope will travel in a convoy equipped with electronic countermeasures for bombs and guarded by sharpshooters and SWAT teams from local police departments, the Secret Service and FBI.
It is estimated that one-and-half million people will attend the Pope’s closing ceremonies in Philadelphia and tens of thousands of more visitors in each city. Pope Francis visit to the United States will be memorable and mark an important time in history.