WASHINGTON -- Pope Francis began his first full day in the United States by attending a ceremony at the White House, where he was welcomed by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
The pope was a few minutes behind schedule leaving for the White House Wednesday morning. Rather than hopping straight into his Fiat, he spent time shaking hands and greeting people outside the Apostolic Nunciature.
Thousands of people were in attendance on the South Lawn of the White House, and the ceremony included musical tributes.
"Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example." President Obama delivered his remarks first, praising the pope for his humility, empathy and passion for protecting the planet.
"As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families." Pope Francis spoke about tolerance and inclusiveness before also speaking to humanity's responsibility to care for our "common home."
After the ceremony, the pope and the president had a private meeting in the Oval Office. President Obama presented Pope Francis with a sculpture of an ascending dove. The dove is an international symbol of peace as well as the Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit. In addition to the sculpture, Obama presented the pope with a key from the home of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American to be declared a saint.
After leaving the White House, Pope Francis waved to well-wishers from his popemobile on the way to St. Matthew's Cathedral. Along the way, he stopped to kiss a baby and bless a young girl from the crowd.
Following his visit to the White House, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with U.S. bishops at St. Matthew's Cathedral.