03/26/2015 Update: In a statement released Thursday, March 26, 2015, White House Press Secretary John Earnest confirmed September 23rd as the finalized date for Pope Francis’ visit to the White House. Then, Pope Francis and President Barack Obama will discuss their common ground on various social, economic, environmental and ethical issues. You can read the official statement here.

On Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015, Pope Francis arrived at the White House in Washington D.C. for a State Arrival Ceremony being the third pope to have ever visited the white house.  The event was held on the  South Lawn of the White House with President Barack Obama and numerous other government officials in attendance. As ex officio head of state of Vatican City, Pope Francis delivered a speech at the event (see full transcript below). A private meeting between President Barack Obama and Pope Francis also occurred at this time.

Pope Francis Speech at the White House

Good morning!

Mr. President,
I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

Mr. President, the efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.
Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

 

Past Papal Visits to the White House
On October 6th, 1979, Pope John Paul II made history, becoming the first reigning pope to visit the White House. There, at the tail-end of his visit to the United States, he was welcomed by then President Jimmy Carter in a formal ceremony. Afterwards, President Carter held a private meeting with the pope in the Oval Office. Nearly 30 years later, Pope Benedict XVI’s motorcade arrived at the White House in Washington D.C., making Pope Benedict XVI the second reigning pope in history to have ever visited the White House. Upon his arrival, the President, along with a crowd of over 13,000, surprised the Pope by singing happy birthday to him while officials delivered a 21-gun salute. Afterwards a private meeting was held between President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI  in the Oval Office, where the president gave him a birthday cake. During the rest of his time in D.C., Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at Nationals Park and delivered a speech at Catholic University.

History of Presidential Meetings with the Pope

Pope Benedict XV
January 4th, 1919 –  President Woodrow Wilson meets with Pope Benedict XV in Vatican City.

Pope Saint John XXIII
December 6th, 1959 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower meets with Pope John XXIII in Vatican City.

Blessed Pope Paul VI
July 2nd, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy meets with Pope Paul VI in Vatican City.
October 4th, 1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Pope Paul VI in New York City.
December 23rd, 1967 – President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Pope Paul VI again, this time in Vatican City.
March 2nd, 1969 – President Richard Nixon meets with Pope Paul VI in Vatican City.
September 29, 1970 – President Richard Nixon meets again with Pope Paul VI in Vatican City.
June 3rd, 1975 – President Gerald Ford meets with Pope Paul VI in Vatican City.

Pope Saint John Paul II
President Jimmy Carter
October 6th, 1979 – White House in Washington D.C.
June 21st, 1980 –  Vatican City

Ronald Reagan
June 7th, 1982 – Vatican City
May 2nd, 1984 –  Fairbanks, Alaska
June 6th, 1987 –  Vatican City
September 10, 1987 – Miami, Florida

Bill Clinton
August 12th, 1993 – Denver, Colorado
June 2nd, 1994 – Vatican City
October 4th, 1995 – Newark, New Jersey
January 26th, 1999 – St. Louis, Missouri

George W. Bush
July 23rd, 2001 – Castel Gandolfo, Italy
May 28th, 2002 – Vatican City
June 4th, 2004 – Vatican City

Pope Benedict XVI
George W. Bush
June 9th, 2007 – Vatican City
April 15-16, 2008 – White House and Washington D.C.
June 13th, 2008 – Vatican City

Barack Obama
July 10th, 2009 – Vatican City

Sources:

  • http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31159399
  • http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/eyewitness/html.php?section=21
  • http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/04/16/bush-thousands-fans-welcome-pope-at-white-house-on-his-birthday/
  • http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/apr/16/catholicism.usa
  • http://www.pressherald.com/2015/02/05/pope-to-address-joint-session-of-congress/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_meetings_between_the_Pope_and_the_President_of_the_United_States
  • https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/26/statement-press-secretary-visit-his-holiness-pope-francis
  • http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/holy-see/francis/papal-visit-2015/2015-papal-visit-schedule.cfm