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Pope Francis Tells His U.S. Bishops Not To Shy Away From Big Issues

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In a much-anticipated visit, Pope Francis arrived at the White House Wednesday morning, where he met with President Obama. Francis addressed a crowd of more than 11,000 people.

Francis used his short speech to touch on several topics that he is likely to address during his trip to the U.S., calling on America's politicians to be true to the nation's founding ideals and labeling climate change a "problem which can no longer be left to future generations."

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Leaving the White House, he rode in his Popemobile through the streets of Washington, D.C. Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets as the pope waved and kissed babies.

During a speech to some 300 U.S. bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Francis called on his church to face the big issues of the day.

He also called on the church to be more compassionate.

"Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart," Francis said. "Although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing."

Later this afternoon, he'll celebrate a canonization Mass in honor of Junípero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

On Thursday, the pope will address Congress. We'll update this post with news from the pope's visit to Washington. We've included a live video of coverage of the pope at the top of this post.

Update at 1:16 p.m. ET: A Call For Compassion

In a speech before some 300 U.S. bishops, Pope Francis called for a more compassionate church.

Early on, he addressed the clergy sex abuse scandal that has plagued the U.S. church.

"I know how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you, and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims ... and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated," he said.

Francis said he did not want to tell the bishops what to do; instead, he wanted to talk to them as their brother. He urged the bishops to focus on shepherding, on moving among their congregations to understand them and engage in "authentic dialogue."

"Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart," Francis said. "Although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing."

The church, he said, should set itself apart from a world that is "already so torn and divided."

"Brokenness is now everywhere," he said. "Consequently, the church, 'the seamless garment of the Lord' cannot allow herself to be rent, broken or fought over."

Francis offered the bishops two recommendations. The first is to "face the challenging issues of our time."

When it comes to abortion, hunger, war, immigrants who drown, the sick and the environment, "it is wrong to look the other way or remain silent," Francis said.

The second recommendation concerned immigrants. Francis said that in the U.S., no other institution has done more for immigrants.

He said:

"Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you. Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them. Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church."

Update at 12:07 p.m. ET: Controversial Retired Cardinal Will Attend Events

Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony will be attending papal events just like other cardinals and bishops, says Adrian Marquez, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Marquez says Mahony will not be traveling with Pope Francis, but that because he is retired, they don't have the exact details of his schedule.

Earlier today, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests sent a press release saying that Mahony's attendance was a "callous move" because he has a "dishonorable reputation" of "covering up abuse."

"His attendance at White House and Congress is a slap in the face to the more than 500 L.A. victims who sought justice for crimes committed against them," Joelle Casteix, a member of the group said in a statement. "It's a slap in the face to L.A. Catholics who are rightfully disgusted at Mahony's enabling of abuse."

In 2013, Mahony was publicly censured. Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez relieved Mahony of his public duties over his mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children.

Despite that rebuke, Mahony remains a part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with the title archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles.

Update at 11:38 a.m. ET: Move To St. Matthews Cathedral

After a parade in the Ellipse at the White House, Pope Francis' motorcade arrived at the historic St. Matthew's Cathedral, which back in 1963 was the scene for the funeral Mass for President John F. Kennedy.

The New York Times is posting a live stream on YouTube, which we have embedded at the top of this post.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET: Pope Rides In Parade On Ellipse

Waving to throngs of people who are pressed against barricades and cheering him, Pope Francis is standing in the rear of a white Jeep that has a glass enclosure — yes, it's a Popemobile.

The pontiff made many onlookers cheer when he kissed a baby that a member of the crowd had handed to his security detail.

You can watch the footage at the C-SPAN website.

Update at 10:50 a.m. ET: A Walking Tour

After the reception ceremony, President Obama and Pope Francis walked around the White House Colonnade, heading from the residence to the Oval Office for a brief meeting.

Large crowds are now massed along the Ellipse, one of several spots in D.C. where people are hoping to see the visiting pope.

Update at 9:57 a.m. ET: Official Ceremony Ends

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday. i

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

toggle caption Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday.

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Obama and Francis stand after the choir sings, and an honor guard goes through more steps to conclude the welcoming ceremony. The pope then leads the way into the White House, followed by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Moments later, they emerge to wave from the porch of the White House's South Portico, as the crowd gives a final round of applause.

Update at 9:54 a.m. ET: Gospel Choir Sings

President Obama and Pope Francis chat in their chairs on a dais as the St. Augustine Gospel Choir, from a church in Washington, performs on the lawn. They sing "Total Praise."

Update at 9:53 a.m. ET: Pope's Speech Has Ended

Addressing President Obama, the pope says, "Once again, I thank you for your welcome. And I look forward to these days here to come. God bless America."

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET: Quoting Martin Luther King

Referencing a line from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the pope says, "We can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note — and now is a time to honor it."

Update at 9:48 a.m. ET: Pope Francis On Freedom And Environment

One of America's most precious possessions is freedom, Francis says, adding that it must be protected "from everything that would threaten or compromise it."

He then goes on to praise President Obama for his initiative on climate change, calling it a "problem which can no longer be left to future generations."

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET: The Pope Speaks

Pope Francis says that as the son of immigrants, he is "happy to be a guest of this country."

He adds that when he speaks to Congress on Thursday, he hopes to encourage America's leaders to be true to the country's founding ideal. And he says that in Philadelphia, he will try to shore up Catholics' devotion to their families.

Update at 9:42 a.m. ET: 'A Profound Moral Example'

President Obama says that by his words and deeds, Pope Francis is "shaking us out of complacency."

Update at 9:40 a.m. ET: Thankful For Help With Cuba

Obama tells Francis, "We are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people."

Update at 9:38 a.m. ET: The Pope's Unique Appeal

The excitement in America around Francis' visit, Obama tells the pope, is due "not only to your role as pope, but to your unique qualities as a person."

He goes on to praise Francis for his humility and generosity of spirit, saying that in those things, "we see a living example of Jesus' teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds."

Update at 9:36 a.m. ET: Extolling The Church's Works

From the busy streets of Buenos Aires to remote villages in Kenya, Catholic organizations serve the poor, minister to prisoners, build schools, build homes, and operate orphanages and hospitals.

Obama adds, "just as the Church has stood with those struggling to break the chains of poverty, it has given voice and hope to those seeking to break the chains of violence and oppression."

Update at 9:33 a.m. ET: 'A Beautiful Day'

After much fanfare, President Obama welcomes Pope Francis to the White House, saying, "What a beautiful day the Lord has made."

Fact check: It is indeed sunny and cool in Washington on this pleasant morning.

"I should explain that our backyard is not typically this crowded — but the size and spirit of today's gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics," Obama says. "It reflects, as well, the way your message of love and hope has inspired so many people, across our nation and around the world."

Update at 9:29 a.m. ET: A Small Parade

A red-coated band is parading, playing their way around the White House's South Lawn.

Update at 9:22 a.m. ET: Pope Arrives

Arriving to applause, Pope Francis gets out of his Fiat and greets the Obamas on the red carpet. Then he and the president walk to a dais outfitted with a podium.

Then they listen to the Vatican City national anthem — followed by the U.S. national anthem.

Update at 9:21 a.m. ET: Obamas Emerge

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have emerged to wait on the red carpet.

Update at 9:18 a.m. ET: Thousands Gathered To See Pope

Reporting from the area around the White House, NPR's Jennifer Ludden says the gates were opened at 4 o'clock this morning to begin letting people in — and that some brought sleeping bags, hoping to rest before trying to get a glimpse of the pope.

"He will have a little car that he will drive on a route kind of around the White House lawn part of the National Mall."

Jennifer adds, "He's known for jumping out sometimes and shaking hands, so people will be looking forward to that as well. He'll just do a short circuit ... some government workers could get a good view — if, that is, they're able to make it into their offices today."

Security preparations for the event are roughly equal to those that would be put in place for a presidential inauguration, Jennifer says.

Here are Pope Francis' full remarks, as delivered (via White House transcript):

"Mr. President, I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of the all Americans. As a 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 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 the right to religious liberty.

"That freedom reminds 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 our 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 change needed to bring about a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.

"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, 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 has the ability to work together in building our common home. 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 — (applause) — 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."

Here are President Obama's full remarks, as prepared beforehand:

"Good morning! What a beautiful day the Lord has made! Holy Father, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. Our backyard is not typically this crowded – but the size and spirit of today's gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics...and the way your message of love and hope has inspired so many people, across our nation and around the world. On behalf of the American people, it is my great honor and privilege to welcome you to the United States of America.

"Today, we mark many firsts. Your Holiness, you have been celebrated as the first Pope from the Americas. This is your first visit to the United States. And you are also the first pontiff to share an Encyclical through a Twitter account.

"Holy Father, your visit not only allows me, in some small way, to reciprocate the extraordinary hospitality you extended to me at the Vatican last year. It also reveals how much all Americans, from every background and of every faith, value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America. From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic Church in Chicago, to my travels as President, I've seen firsthand how, every day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns, and laity feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, educate our children, and fortify the faith that sustains so many.

"What is true in America is true around the world. From the busy streets of Buenos Aires to remote villages in Kenya, Catholic organizations serve the poor, minister to prisoners, build schools and homes, and operate orphanages and hospitals. And just as the Church has stood with those struggling to break the chains of poverty, it has given voice and hope to those seeking to break the chains of violence and oppression.

"And yet, 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. 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 also through deeds.

"You call on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to put the 'least of these' at the center of our concern. You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and as societies, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture's call to lift up the poor and the marginalized, to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity – because we are all made in the image of God.

"You remind us that 'the Lord's most powerful message' is mercy. That means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart – from the refugee who flees war torn lands, to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life. It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, those who have suffered, and those who seek redemption.

"You remind us of the costs of war, particularly on the powerless and defenseless, and urge us toward the imperative of peace. Holy Father, we are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people, which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere, and a better life for the Cuban people. We thank you for your passionate voice against the deadly conflicts that ravage the lives of so many men, women, and children; and your call for nations to resist the sirens of war and resolve disputes through diplomacy.

"You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely. Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty. Yet around the world at this very moment, children of God, including Christians, are targeted and even killed because of their faith. Believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship. The faithful are imprisoned. Churches are destroyed. So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and intimidation.

"And, Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet – God's magnificent gift to us. We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.

"Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example. And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency. All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true and right. But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better. You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together, in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free. Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to 'never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!'

"For that great gift of hope, Holy Father, we thank you, and welcome you, with joy and gratitude, to the United States of America."

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