During his first visit to the White House as the Holy Father, Pope Francis spoke from the White House on Wednesday defending President Obama’s climate change agenda. Pope Francis speaking in English on the South Lawn declared that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to future generations.
He also said that Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, and he said religious liberty must be protected. He spoke at length about the climate and the need to protect what he called “our common home” The pope spoke after a formal welcome From President Barack Obama, who praised his “profound moral example” of humility and mercy. Pope Francis said he was proud to visit a country built largely by immigrants. The pope applauded President Obama for proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution.
Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution,” the pope said, speaking in halting English. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our ‘common home.’ we are living at a critical moment of history.”
Obama used his welcome of the pope to also make note of the pontiff’s views on climate change.
Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet – God’s magnificent gift to us,” Obama said. “We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations”
Climate change has been a major issue of conflict between the White House and Republicans in Congress, who warn that Obama’s plans could do lasting economic harm to the country with little environment benefit. A lawmaker announced last week that he will skip the pope’s speech before Congress because Pope Francis is focusing on climate change instead of religious freedom and abortion.
President Obama has become the 11th straight president to meet with a pope, dating back to Dwight Eisenhower’s meeting with Pope John XXIII in 1959. Pope Francis’ trip is his first papal visit to our nation’s capital since 2008. Thousands of guests flooded the South Lawn for the papal welcome celebration. Crowds began lining up outside the White House complex since 4.am. for the 9 a.m. ceremony. Approximately 11,000 people received tickets to the event on the White House grounds and those without tickets gathered outside the barriers to watch.
After his meeting with President Obama, Pope Francis will lead a parade around the Ellipse and then heads for a midday prayer with 300 bishops at St. Matthews. Later in the afternoon Pope Francis will celebrate a new saint with a canonization Mass for the Spanish missionary priest Junipero Serra at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.