His plane, an Alitalia jetliner, touched down at Joint Base Andrews near Washington at 3:51 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, nine minutes ahead of schedule.
In the minutes before and after the plane landed, a group of excited Catholics, after having prayed the rosary, began and sustained a chant: “We love Francis, yes we do; we love Francis, how ’bout you?” Other chants later erupted: “Ho, ho, hey, hey; welcome to the U.S.A.!” and “Fran-cis-co!”
Ready to greet the pontiff as he descended from the plane, which bore U.S. and Vatican flags, were President Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
A group of bishops stood on the tarmac waiting to greet Pope Francis, among them Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, in whose archdiocese Joint Base Andrews is located.
Other prelates on hand were Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB vice president; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, a former Washington auxiliary bishop; and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Washington-based Archdiocese for the Military Services.
Among the elected officials at Andrews were Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia. All three are Catholic.
Vice President Joe Biden and his family also welcomed the pope.
After the jet came to a stop, the stairway was wheeled into position and a red carpet rolled out. Thirteen minutes after the plane touched down, the door to the jet’s cabin opened.
At 4:06 p.m., Pope Francis appeared from the open door to riotous cheering and applause from the small group of invitees, walking down the steps. Unlike Cuban leader Raul Castro, who walked up the steps to meet the pontiff at the door of the aircraft, Obama and his family waited at the base of the steps to greet Pope Francis.
The wind at times took Pope Francis’ cape and lifted it over the back of his head. At the end of the carpet, the pope met a few Catholic schoolchildren, who offered him a bouquet.
The pope made no formal remarks upon his arrival. But the president and the pope chatted amiably out of microphone range, each man wearing a wide smile.
Surrounded by a Secret Service detail, Pope Francis and Obama walked off the tarmac to the grounds of the military base and into a lounge for a brief discussion.
In six minutes, Pope Francis had come and gone.
But after just eight minutes in the lounge, the joint papal and presidential details re-emerged, with Pope Francis receiving rock star-like adulation of the crowd on risers on the tarmac. The pope stepped into the back seat of a four-door black Fiat 500L bearing the license plate “SCV 1” — SCV being the Italian acronym for Vatican City-State — rolled down the window, and smiled at the onlookers before the vehicle slowly accelerated, trailing behind a much larger black Chevrolet Suburban. Even the glimpse of the departing pope’s hand waving from the window opposite him was enough to elicit added cheers from the crowd.
After Pope Francis had faded from view, Obama stayed on the tarmac long enough to shake the hands of the bishops who had assembled to greet the pontiff.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103