President Barack Obama publicly thanked Pope Francis for his intervention in bringing the United States and Cuba closer together.
Welcoming the Pope to the White House for the first time, President Obama said that the US was looking forward to a “new beginning” with the Caribbean island nation. The US restored diplomatic relations with Cuba in July 54 years after they severed all diplomatic ties with Havana in 1961.
“Holy Father, we are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people, which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere, and a better life for the Cuban people,” the President said.
“We thank you for your passionate voice against the deadly conflicts that ravage the lives of so many men, women, and children; and your call for nations to resist the sirens of war and resolve disputes through diplomacy.”
Speaking on the White House lawn the President also reflected on how popular the Pope is in the US.
“Your visit not only allows me, in some small way, to reciprocate the extraordinary hospitality you extended to me at the Vatican last year. It also reveals how much all Americans, from every background and of every faith, value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America.
THE POPE IN THE US...
“From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic Church in Chicago, to my travels as President, I’ve seen firsthand how, every day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns, and laity feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, educate our children, and fortify the faith that sustains so many.”
Pope Francis is greeted by wellwishers as he leaves Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission, in Washington to travel to the White House (PA)
The Pope arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, on Tuesday afternoon where he was greeted by President Barack Obama and his family, including the president’s mother-in-law. Also present in the greeting ceremony were the Vice-President, Joe Biden, a Catholic, and the American hierarchy.
After visiting the White House the Pope was due to attend Midday Prayer at nearby St Matthew’s Cathedral, before holding a Mass of Canonisation of Junipero Serra at the National Basilica in Washington.
Junipero Serra helped lay the foundation for modern California by building a network of churches and settlements along the Pacific Ocean and converting Native American people to Christianity.
Tomorrow morning he will become the first Pope to speak at Congress.
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