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Pope Francis arrives in US, his first visit to country

Published:Tuesday | September 22, 2015 | 9:27 PM
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Pope Francis (right) upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base today.

WASHINGTON (AP):

Pope Francis arrived today on the first visit of his life to the United States, bringing his "church of the poor" to the world's wealthiest superpower and a country polarised over issues closest to his heart: immigration, social injustice and economic inequality.

According a rare honor to the pontiff, President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden planned to greet Francis on the red-carpeted tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, just outside the nation's capital, where the pope's Alitalia plane touched down from Cuba. Presidents usually make important visitors come to them at the White House.

During his six-day, three-city visit to the US, the pope will meet with the president, address Congress, speak at the United Nations in New York and take part in a Vatican-sponsored conference on the family in Philadelphia.

The 78-year-old Argentine known as the "slum pope" for ministering to the downtrodden in his native Buenos Aires is expected to urge America to take better care of the environment and the poor and return to its founding ideals of religious liberty and open arms toward immigrants.

Francis' enormous popularity, propensity for wading into crowds and insistence on using an open-sided Jeep rather than a bulletproof popemobile have complicated things for US law enforcement, which has mounted one of the biggest security operations in American history to keep him safe.