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When Francis met Barack: Here's what the Pope spoke about during his White House visit

Washington is pulling out all the stops for the historic visit.

Updated 7.38pm

Barack Obama, Pope Francis Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

BARACK OBAMA HAS welcomed Pope Francis to the White House — the first black US president hailing the first pontiff from the Americas as a unique moral authority.

The South Lawn of the White House echoed to the strains of the Pontifical Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner and a thundering 21-gun salute.

Locals thronged the streets for the historic visit.

Source: Mashable/YouTube

An inspiration to many of America’s 70 million Catholics, Francis is also a potential political ally for Obama, sharing many of his progressive goals.

Both men called for action on climate change and hailed the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba — causes dear to the White House but opposed by US conservatives.

“I believe the excitement around your visit must be attributed not only to your role as pope, but to your unique qualities as a person,” Obama told his guest.

Barack Obama, Pope Francis President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during playing of the national anthems. Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

In your humility, your embrace of simplicity, the gentleness of your words and the generosity of your spirit, we see a living example of Jesus’ teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but through deeds.

Speaking in fluent but accented English, the 78-year-old Argentine pontiff returned the warm blessings of his host.

“I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans,” he said, to applause.

Barack Obama, Pope Francis Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis after this welcoming speech. Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.

In a nod to Washington’s bitter debate about immigration reform, Francis said he would address Congress “to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles”.

Many US conservatives call into question the very existence of man-made climate change, but Francis and Obama made a de facto joint appeal for action on the issue.

Barack Obama, Pope Francis Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

“You remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet,” Obama said.

Francis took up the call:

“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.”

Pope The Pope arriving at Andrews Air Force Base yesterday. Source: Associated Press

The pope was afforded a full ceremonial welcome on his historic first visit to the United States, and to Washington — a political city that ordinarily shrugs its shoulders when presidents, queens and sheikhs roll through.

Francis will make two key speeches during his US visit, the address to Congress and another to the United Nations on Friday.

Topics will include critiques of the dominance of finance and technology; a condemnation of world powers over the conflicts gripping the planet; appeals to protect and welcome immigrants; and climate change, according to Vatican sources.

Speaking later to US bishops, the Pope called on them to work to ensure the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church never happens again.

“I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you,” he said.

And I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims — in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed — and to work to ensure such crimes will never be repeated.

The pope disappointed many American followers by deciding not to meet with the victim’s of sex abuse by priests, but he was not able to avoid the issue altogether.

Besides the abuse itself, bishops and the Vatican have been accused of protecting suspected abusers and giving alleged victims the cold shoulder

© – AFP 2015, originally published 4.41pm.

Read: There’s a Syrian refugee family living in the Vatican >

More: Teenager arrested for ‘planning Islamic State-style attack on Pope’ >

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