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Home : News : Pope Francis/Vatican
9/22/2015 1:53:00 PM
Pope arrives in U.S.
Pope Francis arrives in U.S. to begin three-city visit
President Barack Obama walks with Pope Francis as the pope greets dignitaries upon his arrival at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland just outside of Washington Sept. 22.
President Barack Obama walks with Pope Francis as the pope greets dignitaries upon his arrival at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland just outside of Washington Sept. 22.
Meeting reporters on plane, pope defends his teaching on social issues
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM CUBA — Pope Francis defended his position on the economy, the environment and other social issues as faithful repetitions of the basic Catholic social doctrine.

Speaking to reporters flying with him from Cuba to Washington Sept. 22, the pope was asked about comments, mainly from the United States, claiming the pope is a communist and about the Newsweek headline, "Is the pope Catholic?"

"I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church," he responded. "I follow the church and in this, I do not think I am wrong."

"Maybe I have given an impression of being a little bit to the left," the pope admitted. "But if they want me to recite the Creed, I can!"

Pope Francis said a cardinal "who is a friend" was telling him about an older Catholic lady, "a good woman, but a bit rigid," who had questions about the description of the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation and if that was the same thing as an "anti-pope."

"'Why are you asking,' the cardinal said. 'Well, I am sure Pope Francis is the anti-pope.'

"'Why do you say that?'

"'Well, because he renounced the red shoes, which are so historic,'" the pope said the woman responded.

People have all sorts of reasons to think, "he's communist or he's not communist," the pope said.

Pope Francis also referred to the social teaching of the church when asked about the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba. The social doctrine is critical of economic embargoes, especially those that last for years, because of their impact on the poor. 

But he said he did not intend to discuss the Cuban embargo in his speech to the U.S. Congress, but he would talk more in general of the importance of bilateral agreements to promote progress, peace and the common good.

"The problem of the embargo is part of the negotiations. This is public. Both presidents have said this. It is part of the journey toward good relations that is underway," he said.

"My desire is that they end up with a good result, with an accord that satisfies both sides," he said.

The Sept. 19-22 visit to Cuba was "a bit of a coincidence," the pope said. He had hoped to enter the United States through Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, like so many people do. But the idea changed when Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced they had an agreement to begin normalizing their relations.

Pope Francis also was asked why he did not meet Cuban dissidents and other opponents of the Cuban opposition. 

"It was very clear I was not holding private audiences in the nunciature -- not even with other heads of state," the pope said, apparently referring to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who had traveled to Havana for the papal visit.

Officials at the Vatican Embassy in Havana did, however, make a telephone call to a representative of a dissident group and invited several members of the group to be among those greeted by the pope at Havana's cathedral, he said.
"I greeted many people there, but no one identified himself as a dissident," Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis was also asked about his private meeting with former Cuban President Fidel Castro and specifically if he thought Castro had "repented" of having treated the Catholic Church so harshly.

"'Repentance' is something intimate, having to do with the conscience," he said.

"In my meeting with Fidel we spoke about the Jesuits he had known" as a student of a Jesuit school, the pope said, and about how hard Jesuits used to make their students work.

"And we spoke a lot about the encyclical, 'Laudato Si',' because he is very interested in the theme of ecology. It was not a very formal meeting, but spontaneous, with his family there," the pope said.

"We did not talk about the past," he said, except for "his experience with the Jesuits."

Catholic News Service

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — Pope Francis arrived in the United States the late afternoon of Sept. 22 to begin his first apostolic journey as pontiff.

His plane, an Alitalia jetliner, touched down at Joint Base Andrews near Washington at 3:51 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, nine minutes ahead of schedule.

In the minutes before and after the plane landed, a group of excited Catholics, after having prayed the rosary, began and sustained a chant: "We love Francis, yes we do; we love Francis, how 'bout you?" Other chants later erupted: "Ho, ho, hey, hey; welcome to the U.S.A.!" and "Fran-cis-co!"

Ready to greet the pontiff as he descended from the plane, which bore U.S. and Vatican flags, were President Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughter, Sasha and Malia.

A group of bishops stood on the tarmac waiting to greet Pope Francis, among them Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, in whose archdiocese Joint Base Andrews is located.

Others on hand from the episcopacy were Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB vice president; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, a former Washington auxiliary bishop; and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Washington-based Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Among the elected officials at Andrews were Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia. All three are Catholic.

Vice President Joe Biden also welcomed the pope.

After the jet came to a stop, the roller stairway was wheeled into position and a red carpet rolled out. Thirteen minutes after the plane touched down, the door to the jet's cabin opened.

At 4:06 p.m., Pope Francis appeared from the open door to riotous cheering and applause from the small group of invitees, walking down the steps. Unlike Cuban leader Raul Castro, who walked up the steps to meet the pontiff at the door of the aircraft, Obama and his family waited at the base of the steps to greet Pope Francis.

The wind at times took Pope Francis' cape and lifted it over the back of his head. At the end of the carpet, the pope met a few Catholic schoolchildren, who offered him a bouquet.

No formal remarks were planned for Pope Francis' arrival, and none was uttered. But the president and the pope chatted amiably out of microphone range, each man wearing a wide smile.

Surrounded by a Secret Service detail, Pope Francis and Obama walked off the tarmac to the grounds of the military base and into a lounge for a brief discussion.

In six minutes, Pope Francis had come and gone.

But after just eight minutes in the lounge, the joint papal and presidential details re-emerged, with Pope Francis receiving rock star-like adulation of the crowd on risers on the tarmac. The pope stepped into the back seat of a four-door black Fiat 500L bearing the license plate "SCV 1" -- SCV being the Italian acronym for Vatican City-State -- rolled down the window, and smiled at the onlookers before the vehicle slowly accelerated, trailing behind a much larger black Chevrolet Suburban. Even the glimpse of the departing pope's hand waving from the window opposite him was enough to elicit added cheers from the crowd.

After Pope Francis had faded from view, Obama stayed on the tarmac long enough to shake the hands of the bishops who had assembled to greet the pontiff.

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