Pope Francis’ visit: From speaking in Capitol to feeding the homeless

WASHINGTON (AP) – Latest developments in Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. All times local:

10:20 p.m.

The Vatican spokesman has denied claims by advocates for victims that the pope has given short shrift to their suffering in his remarks on the clergy sex-abuse crisis. The Rev. Federico Lombardi says Pope Francis has acknowledged victims by referring to children as the most vulnerable members of the church and speaking of child molestation as a crime.

Lombardi also noted Thursday that the pope has three more days of public events in the U.S., suggesting that further comments are ahead.

In two separate speeches, the pope has commended U.S. bishops for their response to victims and said he understood clergy had “suffered greatly” because of the shame from the scandal. The crisis erupted in 2002 in the Archdiocese of Boston, then spread across the country and overseas.

7:45 p.m.

Pope Francis has made his strongest expression yet of respect and gratitude for American nuns during a prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Francis described religious sisters as “women of strength” and “fighters” who had a “spirit of courage” as they served at the forefront of the church. He said he wanted to offer “a big thank-you and to tell you that I love you very much.”

Nuns in the pews erupted in applause on hearing the pope’s words. They held enormous significance for U.S. sisters, who had been the subject of Vatican investigations under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican office that guards orthodoxy had ordered an overhaul of the largest umbrella group for U.S. sisters, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, accusing the group of straying broadly from church teaching, which the nuns denied. The investigation prompted a nationwide outpouring on behalf of the nuns and a backlash against the Vatican and U.S. bishops. Francis ended the overhaul process this year, nearly two years ahead of schedule, with no major changes for the sisters’ association and his thanks for their work.

The remarks were his second major gesture in support of nuns on the U.S. trip so far. In Washington on Wednesday, he paid a surprise visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order that runs homes for poor senior citizens. The religious order is suing the Obama administration.

6:05 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in Manhattan by helicopter and hopped into a Fiat hatchback, traveling in the same modest style as he did in Washington. The military helicopter touched down at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport near Wall Street after a short flight from John F. Kennedy Airport. He landed there after flying in from Washington.

Francis is headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for evening prayers in a charcoal gray, four-door Fiat 500L with a yellow papal flag on the hood. The pope has eschewed limousines on his U.S. trip in favor of far smaller, Italian-made Fiats.

In general, he has made a point of traveling in modest cars, as part of his emphasis on simplicity and rejecting consumerism.

4:55 p.m.

Pope Francis is on his way to New York City, and about 200 people have gathered to welcome him at the airport.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, five Catholic schoolchildren and other guests gathered at John F. Kennedy Airport as snipers stood atop police vehicles. Law enforcement officers also are doing security sweeps of arriving planes.

Brooklyn Diocese spokeswoman Rocio Fidalgo says the five students were chosen based on their academic performance and attendance at Mass. Francis is headed to the United States’ biggest city after three days in Washington. He gave the first-ever papal speech to the U.S. Congress on Thursday morning, urging lawmakers to treat immigrants “in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”

It’s the first papal trip to New York since Pope Benedict XVI visited in April 2008.

SLIDESHOW: Pope Francis Visits The United States

1:50 p.m.

A number of presidential candidates took time from the divisive 2016 campaign to attend the pope’s speech to Congress. Republicans Ben Carson and Chris Christie came as invited guests. Also attending, senators who are in the 2016 race: Republicans Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham; and Democrat Bernie Sanders.

Some found the pope’s words hard to make out at times because of his accent and low-key speaking style. Carson says he liked the pope’s themes about taking care of life, the family and the environment. Asked whether the pope said anything that bothered him, Carson said: “Not that I could understand.”

Cruz said that “at times, not everyone could make out precisely what he was saying.”

Sanders liked that the pope singled out Dorothy Day, a Catholic activist for labor unions and human rights in the last century, as an American who helped shape the nation’s values.

11:40 a.m.

Fresh off his historic speech to Congress and greetings to a crowd of tens of thousands, Pope Francis addressed one of smallest gatherings of his U.S. visit.

Francis spoke to roughly 400 people at St. Patrick’s Church in downtown Washington, addressing parishioners, people served by Catholic Charities and choirs from two local high schools. He called for charity and compassion toward the homeless and the least fortunate. And he said there is no social or moral justification for a lack of housing for the people.

Afterward, he was going to help serve lunch to homeless people who are regularly fed by Catholic Charities.

11:30 a.m.

Carrie Totten and her sister drove to Washington from Mount Olive, New Jersey, and waited for hours to be outside the Capitol building to hear a telecast of Pope Francis’ words and perhaps see him briefly.

Their glimpse of the pope was partially obscured by trees, but they said it was well worth it.

Totten says she “devoured” his positive message in a world rife with hatred and finger-pointing.

She said she is optimistic the pontiff’s message of unity will sink in, even to a divided Congress.

___

11:30 a.m.

Tens of thousands who gathered on the front lawn of the Capitol stood quietly and attentively as they listened to Pope Francis speak inside to a joint meeting of Congress.

The largest applause came when Francis invoked the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – in reference to the Syrian refugee crisis.

He also received steady applause when he spoke about defending human life at every stage of development and about the joy of marriage and family life.

Mostly, though, the crowd listened quietly to a speech that was not always easily understood, given the pope’s accent and the acoustics of the Capitol lawn.

___

11:20 a.m.

From the balcony of the U.S. Capitol, Pope Francis asked a crowd of tens of thousands to pray for him.

It’s a plea he traditionally makes. But this time, speaking in Spanish, he added a line to acknowledge that not everyone in the crowd was Christian, much less a believer.

Through a translator, the pontiff said: “If among you there are some who don’t believe or who cannot pray, I ask that you send good wishes my way.”

After his speech to Congress, the pope walked onto a balcony of the Capitol and greeted the throngs with “Buenos Dias.”

He expressed gratitude for their presence and asked God to bless “the most important ones here – children.”

Francis ended his remarks in English, saying “Thank you very much and God bless America.” The crowd cheered boisterously.

___

11:10 a.m.

Pope Francis has taken his call for action on climate change to Congress. In his address to lawmakers, Francis urged a “courageous and responsible effort” to avert the most serious effects of what he called the “environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

Francis says he’s convinced that working together, nations can make a difference to slow global warming. He says the U.S. and “this Congress” have an important role to play. Now, he says, is the time for a “culture of care.”

___

11 a.m.

Pope Francis is lamenting that the very basis of marriage and family life today is being put into question – an allusion to gay marriage in a country that recently legalized same-sex marriage across the land.

Speaking before Congress in the first-ever papal address, Francis said the family today is “threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”

While Francis has shown great openness to gays as individuals, he has staunchly upheld the church teaching that marriage is a union between man and woman.

Sitting in front of Francis for his speech was John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, which legalized gay marriage across the country.

Francis is expected to speak in greater depth about the threats to families at a big church rally in Philadelphia later this week.

___

11 a.m.

Pope Francis is demanding an end to the arms trade, delivering a tough message to a country that is the world’s largest exporter of weapons.

Speaking before Congress, the pope asked why weapons are being sold to people who intend only to inflict suffering on innocents. He said: “Sadly, the answer as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

Francis has in the past denounced weapons makers and dealers as “the root of evil” and questioned how weapons manufacturers can call themselves Christian.

Francis has, however, said that it is legitimate to use military force against an “unjust aggression,” such as the attacks by Islamic extremists against Christian and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

___

10:50 a.m.

Pope Francis has used his speech to Congress to express sympathy for American Indians for their “turbulent and violent” early contacts with arriving Europeans. But he says it is hard to judge past actions by today’s standards.

Francis did not specifically use the term American Indians. He said the rights of “those who were here long before us” were not always respected.

He says that “for those people and their nations,” he wants to express his highest esteem and appreciation.

Francis has been criticized by some Native Americans for his decision to canonize an 18th century missionary, Junipero Serra, on Wednesday. Indigenous groups say Serra was part of the violent colonizing machine that wiped out indigenous populations. Francis has defended Serra as a great evengelizer who protected indigenous peoples from the abuses of colonizers.

___

10:35 a.m.

Speaking to Congress, Pope Francis is calling for an end to the death penalty in the U.S. and across the world.

Francis says that every life is sacred and society can only benefit from rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.

The pope noted that U.S. bishops have renewed their call to abolish capital punishment. That idea is unpopular, however, with many American politicians.

The pontiff did not specifically mention abortion – a particularly contentious issue in Congress at the moment that threatens to force the shutdown of the U.S. government next week.

Still, his remarks referred to the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion. He urged lawmakers and all Americans to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

___

10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis is urging Congress members – and the United States as a whole – not to be afraid of immigrants but to welcome them as fellow human beings.

He says people are not things that can be discarded just because they are troublesome.

The pontiff’s admonition comes as the presidential race is roiled by questions about immigration from Mexico and Latin America, and the nation is weighing how many migrants to accept from wars in the Middle East.

The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina himself, Francis noted that the United States was founded by immigrants, that many lawmakers are descended from foreigners, and that this generation must not “turn their back on our neighbors.”

His plea: “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”

___

10:15 a.m.

Pope Francis is calling for a “delicate balance” in fighting religious extremism to ensure that fundamental freedoms aren’t trampled at the same time.

He says in his speech to Congress that “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”

He says religious, intellectual and individual freedoms must be safeguarded, while combatting violence perpetrated in the name of religion.

The pope cautions against simplistically breaking the world into camps of good and evil.

Francis has expressed deep concern about the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic extremists, fearing that the Christian presence in the region is risk. He’s dispatched envoys to Iraq with money and other forms of assistance to help refugees.

___

10:05 a.m.

Pope Francis has opened his historic speech to Congress by describing himself as a “son of this great continent” joined in a common purpose with America.

The Argentine-born pope is the first from the Americas. And his speech to Congress is the first by any pontiff.

A bipartisan group of congressional leaders escorted him up the aisle for his speech in the House chamber, as tens of thousands waited outside.
10:05 a.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in the House chamber for his speech to Congress.

The pontiff walked up the aisle to thunderous applause from standing lawmakers, and paused to shake the hand of Secretary of State John Kerry.

House Speaker John Boehner told lawmakers he had the “high privilege and distinct honor” of presenting the pope.

___

9:30 a.m.

With a handshake and a smile, House Speaker John Boehner has welcomed Pope Francis to his ornate ceremonial office in the Capitol prior to the first papal address to Congress in history.

The Ohio Republican told Francis, “Your Holiness, welcome, really glad that you’re here.”

Boehner’s eyes moistened as the pope told him he was glad to be there, too.

The two men then sat next to each other, accompanied by Vatican and church officials and Boehner aides.

Boehner told the pontiff that his staff had urged him to wear the green tie he was sporting. That drew a compliment from Francis, delivered through an interpreter.

The interpreter told Boehner, “He says it’s a tie with the color of hope.”

Before the pope’s arrival, Boehner told those waiting with him that the pope’s visit was “a big deal” for him, as a Catholic.

___

9:20 a.m.

Pope Francis met briefly with House Speaker John Boehner in an opening act of his historic visit to Congress.

Awaiting the pope’s arrival, Boehner repeatedly straightened his tie and shifted from foot to foot, and joked and chatted with reporters about the history of the House furnishings. Their visit lasted only a few minutes. Tens of thousands wait outside, with lawmakers and guests seated in the House chamber for the first speech by a pope to Congress.

8:50 a.m.

The pope greeted well-wishers outside the Vatican’s diplomatic mission on his way to his historic visit to Congress.

As he did Wednesday, Francis lingered with the excited crowd outside the mission, on another sunny day. Tens of thousands await him on Capitol Hill.

The pope shook hands and touched the faces of schoolchildren, dressed up in ties or Sunday dresses. As the pope moved past, one young boy shouted, “Oh yeah! I got a selfie.”

After his speech to Congress, Francis is expected to go to the Hall of Statues, where there is a statue of America’s newest saint, Junipero Serra, whom Francis canonized on Wednesday.

Joined by House Speaker John Boehner, he’ll then offer to the Library of Congress a special edition of the Bible. Then he’s to go to a balcony to greet and offer a benediction to the throngs below.

___

8:30 a.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration is reminding people that Washington, New York and Philadelphia are no-drone zones during the pope’s visit to the U.S.

The FAA has put in flight restrictions through Sunday. That means flying a drone or unmanned aircraft anywhere in those cities is against the law and may result in criminal or civil charges.

Pope Francis leaves Washington on Thursday for New York and goes to Philadelphia on Saturday.

___

8:20 a.m.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is bringing Tom Steyer, who’s a California-based environmentalist and top Democratic donor, and Marc Benioff, a business software CEO, to the House gallery for the pope’s speech.

Among other guests, she’s also invited Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union, and Matilda Cuomo, mother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and widow of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

___

8:15 a.m.

Security is tight at the Capitol as crowds gather for Pope Francis’ arrival.

Streets are closed within a three-block radius of the Capitol and police advise visitors to avoid driving to the scene. The city’s subway was packed with riders hours before his speech to Congress but few delays were reported.

Police are visible throughout the Capitol complex and visitors are encountering a series of security checkpoints.

___

8:10 a.m.

“Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See!”

Those booming words will announce Pope Francis as he arrives for his historic speech as the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress.

The man who will perform the ceremonial call is more accustomed to protecting famous people than introducing them.

Paul Irving spent his career in the Secret Service. He was a special agent for 25 years and the service’s assistant director from 2001 to 2008.

Speaker John Boehner chose him as House sergeant-at-arms in 2012.

When he’s not introducing dignitaries before Congress, his main duty is to oversee security in the House side of the Capitol.

___

8:05 a.m.

Tens of thousands already are gathering on the front lawn of the Capitol to watch the pope’s speech on Jumbotron screens and maybe catch a glimpse of Francis. He is expected to wave from a balcony a few hundred yards away.

Libby Miller of Frederick, Maryland, says her friends all told her she was crazy for schlepping to Capitol Hill with her 4-year-old son, Camden, and 2-year-old daughter, Avery.

She left the house before 5 a.m. and settled into a spot on the lawn by 7:30 a.m., about two hours before the pope’s scheduled arrival. And she was prepared to keep her kids occupied – iPad loaded with games, toy trucks, snacks and a sippy cup.

Miller says she wants her kids to be there for an important moment in history. They won’t understand it now, but she says “they’ll get it eventually.”

___

7:45 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is marking Pope Francis’ visit to the Capitol in the modern way: on YouTube.

The Kentucky Republican says in a video Thursday morning that Francis’ elevation to pope “heralded a new beginning for Catholics in Kentucky, across America and from every corner of the world.”

McConnell praises the pope’s “unique and engaging style” and says Americans have watched the pope reach new and different audiences, “both from within his flock and far beyond it.”

___

7:30 a.m.

Joint gatherings of Congress for dignitaries’ speeches are usually a recipe for competing partisan ovations and chummy backslaps and handshakes.

This time, House and Senate leaders have asked lawmakers: Please, not when the pope is here.

The leaders sent an appeal to lawmakers in advance of Pope Francis’ speech Thursday morning, asking them to act with decorum in his presence. Among the no-no’s – reaching out for handshakes or conversation with the pope and those accompanying him as they walk down the center aisle of the grand House chamber.

To drum the lesson in, the leaders’ letter reminded legislators that the historic event will be seen on television “around the whole world and by many of our constituents.”

Leaders have made similar appeals for State of the Union addresses, with little luck.

___

7 a.m.

With his speech Thursday morning, Francis will become the first pope to address Congress. But the list of foreign leaders and dignitaries who’ve done so is long.

The House historian’s office says it’s happened 117 previous times.

Francis won’t be the first religious leader to address the House and Senate. Technically that was Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1991, since the British monarch heads the Anglican Church.

The most addresses to Congress? Three, by both British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The historian’s office lists the first such speech in 1874. That’s when Congress heard King Kalakaua of Hawaii, still an independent kingdom then.

The first speech by a foreign leader to lawmakers was in 1824 by the Marquis de Lafayette, the French general who helped the colonies win independence. But he addressed only the House.

___

6:45 a.m.

Francis’ speech to Congress is a personal and political coup for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican and Catholic.

Boehner unsuccessfully invited the two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, to speak. He began trying in 1994 during his second House term, organizing a petition by lawmakers saying John Paul II was a “world leader, ambassador of peace and an important catalyst in the fall of the Iron Curtain.”

Francis is the fourth pope to meet with a president in the U.S., including presidential visits on six separate trips by John Paul II.

The first was Paul VI’s 1965 New York meeting with President Lyndon Johnson. Benedict XVI met President George W. Bush in 2008.

Francis’ coming speech at the United Nations will be the fifth by a pope.

 

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