Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear of the New York Times are reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Pope Francis,the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to Washington, DC. Pope Francis was received with much fanfare by the president who praised his moral authority that “comes not just through words but also through deeds.”
President Obama and Pope Francis participated in an exchange of gifts.
Mr. Obama presented the pope with a custom sculpture of an ascending dove, which serves as an international symbol of peace as well as the Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit. The president also gave the pontiff a 206-year-old key from the home of Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was the first native-born American to be declared a saint and was canonized 40 years ago.
Pope Francis presented Mr. Obama with a bronze bas-relief plaque commemorating the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
Pope Francis delivered remarks in English shortly after his ceremonial arrival. Baker and Shear write:
“Speaking to his ‘brothers’ at the cathedral where John F. Kennedy was eulogized in 1963, the pope was warm and encouraging, but also spoke clearly and with simple language that was unmistakable in its emphasis. He praised the bishops for their work on behalf of immigrants and for the first time praised their ‘courage’ in handling the church’s sex-abuse scandals.
‘I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice,’ the pope told the bishops.
Like his predecessors, he urged the bishops not to remain silent toward the ‘innocent victim of abortion.’ But he mentioned the highly charged issue only as the first in a long list of other matters, including children who die of hunger and bombings, immigrants who ‘drown in the search for a better tomorrow,’ the elderly or sick, the victims of terror, war and drug trafficking, and an environment ‘devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature.’
Speaking to bishops who have not always agreed with his spiritual emphasis, the pope said that he had ‘not come to judge you or to lecture you.’ But he nonetheless offered what he called ‘reflections which I consider helpful for our mission,’ including a warning against yielding to ‘the temptation to become notaries and bureaucrats.’”
Pope Francis’ next stop will be in Philadelphia, PA where he will deliver mass on Sunday.
Read more at the New York Times.