Pope Francis’ historic visit to the U.S. continued with a visit to the White House Wednesday morning, Sept. 23. The pontiff gave a short speech before a crowd of 11,000, touching on issues such as climate change, worldwide poverty and marriage (video below).
The pontiff’s tour of Washington D.C. has brought the U.S. capitol to a standstill; traffic has been jammed due to the crowds of people in the streets.
At the White House, Pope Francis took the stage with President Barack Obama. Pope Francis is scheduled to tour across the cities of D.C., Philadelphia and New York over a six-day period.
Pope Francis addressed the massive crowd of onlookers in English, communicating clearly in the language despite not being a regular English speaker. He touched on a number of volatile issues that have been dominating the U.S. headlines, CNN reports.
“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 began. “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.”
On the issue of climate change, Pope Francis was complimentary of Obama’s efforts to curb carbon emissions.
“Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution," Pope Francis said. "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.”
The pontiff also gave praise to U.S. reconciliation with Cuba.
“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," he said.
While Pope Francis says that American Catholics support creating a more inclusive society -- which many believe is a reference to same-sex marriage -- he also expressed that “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," he added. "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.”
The pontiff also urged that the international community continues to increasingly help the impoverished, asking America 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.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to speak to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday morning, Sept. 24.