Pope Francis arrived in Washington, D.C. today as part of his five-day tour of the United States. This is the current pope’s first visit to the country, and he is scheduled to make stops in three east coast cities: Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City.
In D.C., Pope Francis will have a personal meeting with President Obama, celebrate mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and address a speech to a joint session of Congress.
Pope Francis is the fourth pope to visit the United States, continuing a tradition started by Pope Paul VI in 1965 when he met with President Lyndon B. Johnson. According to the Pew Research Center, Catholics make up more than 20 percent of the United States population. In Virginia, the percentage is closer to 12 percent.
The pope is the leader of the global Catholic Church. The office of the pope, called the papacy, is an institution that has heavily influenced world events and traditions for centuries. According to Gawker, some of the pope’s responsibilities include declaring pronouncements on faith, providing spiritual guidance and canonizing saints. Because Vatican City, where the papacy resides, is a sovereign state, the pope is also a United Nations representative.
The College of Cardinals, an organization of senior ecclesiastical figures, elects popes after the death or resignation of the previous pope. Pope Francis was elected in 2013 after the resignation of former Pope Benedict XVI. (Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope to resign in almost six hundred years.)
Watch the following clip from Mason Cable Network to learn more about Pope Francis:
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