This past Tuesday marked Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States, and only the fourth time a pontiff has visited the United States. Arriving from Cuba, Pope Francis was warmly greeted in Washington, D.C. by President Obama and Vice President Biden and their families. Francis is scheduled for a six-day tour through D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.
After being welcomed into the White House on Wednesday, Francis paraded through downtown Washington along the National Mall in his Jeep Wrangler Popemobile among thousands of onlookers. Later in the day, Francis held the first canonization mass on U.S. soil at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Thursday was politically significance as the Senate and House welcomed Francis in a joint session. As the first pope ever to deliver a joint address to Congress, Americans were interested how Francis’s position on income inequality, climate change and immigration regulations would play out in his interactions with politicians in D.C. After his address, rather than staying to have lunch with lawmakers, Francis visited St. Patrick’s Catholic Church for lunch served by the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese with around 300 homeless people.
Departing from Washington on Thursday night, Francis arrived in New York City to host an evening prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, Francis met with the U.N. General Assembly Friday morning. Later in the day, Francis is set to meet with survivors and family members of those killed on 9/11 by the World Trade Center attacks. Scheduled to take place at the Ground Zero memorial outside the 9/11 museum, Francis’s meeting will be followed by a multi-religious service. According to The Wall Street Journal, the service is expected to include Buddhist, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders. While many of the 9/11 victims were New Yorkers, law enforcers, and firefighters, the Christian Post reports that a great number of citizens from “the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, South Korea, India and dozens of other countries” died from the attacks as well.
Following a procession through Central Park, the pope will also be hosting Mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday evening. The chair that the Francis will sit on during the service has been intentionally commissioned to be built by a group of immigrant day laborers, while the altar was built by young men from Lincoln Hall Boys Haven.
Francis will spend the last leg of his trip in Philadelphia. The pope will be hosting Mass Saturday morning at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Over 100,000 communion wafers have been prepared by a group of nuns for the pontiff’s Mass in Philadelphia. The pope will then tour through the historic Independence Mall to visit the Liberty Bell as well as Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.
On Sunday, Francis will lead a papal meeting with bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He is then set to visit inmates at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, where several inmates who have been spending time learning carpentry in a vocational workshop have built a chair for the pope to sit in during his visit. Before returning to Rome, one more Mass will be hosted by Francis with the World Meeting of Families.