As onlookers erupted with cheers, Pope Francis on Tuesday afternoon set foot in the U.S. for the first time as pontiff and was greeted by President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, other administration officials and a raucous crowd of supporters.
Members of the military literally rolled out the red carpet for Francis, who quickly has cultivated a cult-like following around the world and has energized liberal Catholics with strong stances on climate change, income inequality and other issues.
Mr. Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and the couple’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, were first in line to greet Francis as he stepped off his plane at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland. As the first family shook hands and briefly talked with Francis, an enthusiastic crowd chanted “Welcome to the U.S.A.”
The crowd also chanted “We love Francis, yes we do, we love Francis, how about you?”
Francis stopped briefly to chat with several small children, one of whom handed him a bouquet of flowers. He then walked across the tarmac, chatting with a smiling Mr. Obama.
Francis arrived in the U.S. Tuesday after a stop in Cuba, where he met with Cuban President Raul Castro. The Vatican played a key role in facilitating a diplomatic reboot between the U.S. and the communist island, ending more than a half-century of isolation.
The pope will hold meetings with Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden at the White House Tuesday and also will address Congress on Thursday. Francis also will visit New York City and Philadelphia while in the U.S.