Pope Francis has arrived in the US for the first time, beginning a six-day visit that will include rebuking Americans about their secular way of life and the unrestrained capitalism that has resulted in extensive poverty and inequality.
US President Barack Obama, along with his wife and daughters, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and his family, traveled to the Joint Base Andrews military facility outside of Washington to greet the pontiff, an unprecedented welcome for a foreign dignitary.
The leader of the Catholic Church was also greeted by several senior Catholic priests standing in line at the tarmac and a group of children from local Catholic schools standing behind a security fence.
The 78-year-old pontiff has never visited the United States before. He arrived from a four-day visit to Cuba where he met President Raúl Castro and his brother, Fidel, who led Cuba from 1959 to 2008.
Francis became the fourth leader of the Catholic Church to visit America, nearly 50 years after Paul VI made the first visit by a pontiff to the country in 1965.
The visit has set off one of the largest security operations in US history, jointly run by the US Secret Service and the FBI as well as state and city law enforcement departments.
During the visit, the pope will visit the White House and address a joint session of Congress, the first-ever by a pontiff.
Lawmakers have received protocol guidance amid fears that the papal address could provoke a State of the Union-like atmosphere, where one half of the chamber stands to cheer while the other sits grim-faced.
Francis will pass on lunch with US lawmakers after his speech and will instead eat with homeless people in Washington.
He will also address the nations of the world at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Papal experts say Francis will emphasize that the unrestrained capitalism practiced in the United States and the West is fostering income inequality and creating an economic culture where the poor are ignored.
His arrival comes as attendance in the US Catholic Church is on the decline due to continuing sexual abuse scandals and the erosion of religious institutions amid an increasingly secular way of life.
By Press TV