Pope Francis and President Barack Obama are set to hold private talks at the White House
on Wednesday before the pontiff parades through streets of Washington on the first full day of his first visit to the United States.
Francis and Obama see eye-to-eye on some issues like climate change and defense of the poor but are at odds over abortion and gay marriage.
Still, the meeting is expected to be friendly, particularly given the pope’s role in mediating last year’s resumption of diplomatic ties between Washington and Cuba after a chill that lasted more than half a century.
The 78-year-old Argentine pope closes out his day with a Mass at the one of the most important Roman Catholic churches in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
There, he will canonize 18th century Spanish missionary Friar Junipero Serra over the objections of critics who say that Serra suppressed Native American cultures in what is now California.
The pope has surprised some U.S. Catholics with his strong words on climate change and criticism of the excesses of capitalism, with less of an emphasis on issues of sexual morality that some of his predecessors and U.S. bishops had focused on.
But Francis, who some right-wing commentators have denounced as a Marxist, says his positions have not strayed from long-held Roman Catholic teachings.
“I am sure that I have not said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the Church,” he told reporters on the plane from Cuba on Tuesday.
PHOTO: Hundreds of spectators pass through a security check as early as 5 am along the parade route of pope Francis around the Ellipse, south of the White House, September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.