Pope Francis set to land in Washington

Pope Francis will arrive in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for a historic visit that the White House hopes highlights its common causes with the popular pontiff.  

Francis, 78, will set foot on U.S. soil for the first time ever during his six-day tour. President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will greet the pope when he lands at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday afternoon.

{mosads}The pope has embraced many of the issues on Obama’s agenda, including climate change, criminal justice reform, income inequality and diplomacy with Cuba, all topics he could comment on during his visit.  

“There’s a palpable excitement and energy in this town,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday, adding that the pope has “inspired so many with his willingness to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk, particularly as it relates to economic and social justice.”

Biden, a Catholic, will take a high-profile role during the papal visit. He said Francis’s message resonates with people around the world.

“He’s the embodiment of Catholic social doctrine that I was raised with; the idea that everyone’s entitled to dignity,” Biden said in an interview with America Media, a Catholic news organization. “I’m excited, quite frankly, as a practicing Catholic. I am really excited by the whole world is getting to see what are the basic essential elements of what constitutes Catholicism.”

Francis plans to meet with Obama at the White House on Wednesday following an elaborate welcome ceremony on the South Lawn that’s expected to be attended by 15,000 people. On Thursday, he will become the first pope to address a joint session of Congress before appearing on the West Front of the Capitol.

Republicans in Congress have sought to highlight where they agree with the pope on social issues, such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Senate Republicans are voting on a measure that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy on Tuesday, just hours before Francis arrives in the nation’s capital.

Obama and Francis’s disagreement on those issues was on display before his arrival.

The Vatican has reportedly raised issue with the White House guest list for Francis’s arrival ceremony, which includes the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and a transgender Catholic activist.

Francis’s visit, which includes a parade on the National Mall and several prayer services, is expected to snarl traffic in the nation’s capital and prompt a security operation on the scale of a presidential inauguration.

Press Secretary Earnest expressed confidence that the Secret Service is up to the challenge.

“These are professionals and there has been significant planning that’s gone into this, and we’re confident that they have what it takes to do this job right,” he said.

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