WASHINGTON – Pope Francis arrived in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
The visit kicked off a six-day American tour, in which he meets the President, address Congress, speak to the United Nations, headline star-studded celebrations, lead thousands in prayer and visit with immigrants, prisoners and the homeless.
The President and first family greeted the Pope when he landed in the afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base.
About 1,000 people, including some 300 children, mostly from local Catholic schools, also greeted the Pope at the base, according to two senior administration officials.
Francis’s visit to the capital was expected to bring parts of the city to a standstill, with rigorous security measures set to close down roads as the Pope travels through Washington. The Department of Homeland Security dubbed the visit a “National Security Special Event” – a special designation for high-profile events deemed terror targets.
Therefore, the visit is also costly, with the Secret Service already spending about $15 million to rent bike racks that will be used as barriers along the Pope’s travel routes.
Only “a few” people joined Obama and Francis during their meeting, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarett told CNN, adding that the meeting was expected to be relaxed and “very personable.”
Vice President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, called the Pope’s visit “an important moment not only for American Catholics but all Americans” and said the Pope has “become a moral rudder for the world.”
“I admire Pope Francis deeply, and I’m excited about his upcoming visit,” Biden said in a statement. “Pope Francis has breathed new life into what I believe is the central mission of our faith – Catholic social doctrine. The calling to respect all people, to treat everyone with dignit, and the obligation and responsibility we all have to take care of children, the elderly, the powerless, the hungry and the forgotten – those most in need with the least among us.”
— VP Biden (Archived) (@VP44) September 22, 2015
— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) September 22, 2015
I ask you to join me in praying for my trip to Cuba and the United States. I need your prayers.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 18, 2015
The men who awaited the Pope in liturgical clothing were wearing certain colors that indicate their rank in the Catholic church.
According to catholic.org, white is the color the Pope wears, red is the color of Cardinals, and violet is the color of Bishops, Archbishops and Patriarchs.