Pope Francis made his first visit to the United States on Tuesday after visiting Cuba and met with President Barack Obama. He spoke about immigration, relations between Cuba and the United States, as well as climate change and capitalism.
The Pontiff arrived at the Joint Base Andrews outside Washington aboard an Alitalia airliner where he was greeted by President Obama, his family and Vice President Joe Biden. He was also cheered by many Americans who chanted “We love Francis, yes we do. We love Francis, how about you?”
He continued his way in Washington where he had a meeting with the U.S. President on Wednesday at the White House and discussed immigration and how the Church sees the foreigners who want to make America their home.
According to Reuters, Francis told Obama “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 advocated for immigrants that are coming from countries south of the United States, as well as the 11 million illegal immigrants that are facing deportation. He also met with U.S. bishops for treating immigrants the right way and told them “Now you are facing this stream of Latin immigration which affect many of your dioceses. Not only as the bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you.”
He also spoke about the long standing trade embargo the United States have been imposing on Cuba. Last year’s negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba were mediated by Francis and contributed to developing bilateral relations between the Cold War enemies. The Obama administration is urging the Republican led Congress to lift the trade embargo.
According to Reuters, the Pope said “It is a public thing that is moving along the path of the good relations that they reach an accord that satisfies both sides, an accord, certainly.” He restrained from further comment in an attempt not to create controversy and infuriate Republicans who are strongly opposing embargo relief.
During his flight over to America, the pope also addressed economic policies and said that his concerns about economic inequality do not necessarily make him a leftist.
According to Reuters, he stated “Maybe an explanation was given that led to the impression that I am a bit to the left, but that would be an error of explanation.” However, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters “I think that you can say that both President Obama and Pope Francis, have, over the course of their careers, both demonstrated a commitment to values related to social and economic justice.”
Pope Francis will become the first pope to ever address the legislative body and is expected to speak about bilateral relations and multinational relations as a precursor of progress and coexistence. He is also set to speak in front of the United nations General Assembly in New York on Friday. The six day visit by the Pope will bring focus on topics such as compassion and simplicity to the world’s wealthiest nation.