SMITH | Pope Francis given hero's welcome on first-ever visit to - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SMITH | Pope Francis given hero's welcome on first-ever visit to U.S.

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Pope Francis disembarks at Andrews Air Force Base. (Photo by Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post Gazette) Pope Francis disembarks at Andrews Air Force Base. (Photo by Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — As Pope Francis’ plane arrived Tuesday for his first visit to the U.S., the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Peter Smith was on hand to document the pontiff’s arrival. He will continue to report on the pope’s two-day visit to Washington, D.C. and trip to Philadelphia.

Here is a running timeline of the pope’s visit and Peter Smith’s dispatches from Tuesday:

Updated at 6:49 p.m.

Papal spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, and other bishops are now holding a press conference in Washington on the pope's upcoming visit to the White House, Congress and the United Nations.

"The pope feels now to have the experience and the moral authority to bring answers and questions to the most important assemblies in the world of today," said Father Lombardi.

Pope Francis, now making his first visit to the United States at age 78, will come with "an attitude of humility, of respect, of interest," the Father said. "He will speak, but he will also learn. The pope always speaks of encounter of persons, encounter of cultures."

Updated at 5 p.m.

A smiling President Obama escorted the pope as he made his way down a red carpet and greeted a line of dignitaries that included the mayor of Washington, the governors of Maryland and Virginia and top-ranking cardinals and archbishops in the American church, including Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Francis, 78, appeared to have good energy while taking his time greeting the dignitaries and then a group of children who formally welcomed him.

The two heads of state, Francis and Obama, briefly went inside a low-rise building at the military base before again emerging and going to the pope's motorcade. He got in the backseat of what looked like the smallest vehicle in the line.

Afterward President and Mrs. Obama greeted high school students who still had plenty of cheers leftover, including one student who kept saying, "Thank you, President Obama!"

Francis left Cuba earlier in the day after a visit that spanned four days to that island country, whose diplomatic thaw with the United States is partly due to Francis' quiet efforts behind the scenes.

History's first Latin American pontiff, who had never set foot in the United States until now, Pope Francis has a six-day itinerary in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. He will meet with Obama at the White House, address sessions of Congress and the United Nations, meet with homeless persons, prison inmates and immigrants and conclude with an open-air Mass in Philadelphia expected to draw a million worshipers on Sunday.

A military honor guard in dress uniform formed in preparation for the pope's arrival, marching in step and holding rifles upright.

Less formally, several bleachers-full of Catholic high school students and other guests filled metal bleachers and filled the air with cheers and chants like, "We love Francis yes we do. We love Francis, how 'bout you?"

Before the pope's arrival, a band from DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland played pep songs more typical of a football stadium, such as "Happy" and "Louie, Louie."

If the pope requested a hymn, the band was prepared to play "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," said Kevin Carruthers, a senior. He said he was "very nervous" because "it's possibly the biggest performance I'm going to have in my life."

Pope Francis, whose trip also includes pastoral visits to famous East Coast cathedrals and other landmarks, is expected to address issues he has made priorities in the two and a half years of his papacy, including poverty and income inequality, global warming and other environmental devastation and the needs of immigrants, inmates and other needy. He will speak at the concluding activities of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, an international gathering that promotes Catholic teachings on the traditional family, including opposition to same-sex marriage, newly made legal throughout the United States.

Updated at 4:22 p.m.

The pope and his motorcade is departing Andrews.

Updated at 4:05 p.m.

After exiting his plane, the pontiff is immediately greeted on the tarmac by President Obama and his family.

Pope Francis arrived in the United States about 4 this afternoon from Cuba.

He was greeted at the tarmac by President Obama, Vice President Biden and their families. Cardinals and archbishops dressed in windblown cassocks were also lined up along the red carpet to greet the pope.

Hundreds of cheering high school students and other guests greeted the pope from risers.

Updated at 3 p.m.

Francis, who has already left Cuba, is en route to the U.S.

A military honor guard in dress uniform began rehearsing on the tarmac, marching in step and holding rifles upright. A band from Dematha Catholic High School in Maryland rehearsed for their role, which band member Kevin Carruthers said will mainly be before the pope arrives to add energy to the waiting spectators. Songs such as Journey's “Don't Stop Believing” and Earth Wind and Fire's “September” are on the playlist, although if the pope requests a hymn, the band is prepared to play "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

Mr. Carruthers, a senior, said he's "very nervous" because "it's possibly the biggest performance I'm going to have in my life."

Copyright 2015 The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. All rights reserved.

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