Pontiff Forgoes Limo For Small Fiat As Mode Of Transport

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Pope Francis has arrived in the United States for his historic six-day visit that spans Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.

The pontiff’s airplane landed at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington just before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

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Shyly removing his zucchetto, the 78-year-old pontiff walked slowly down the steps from the plane in his white robe and was met by a military honor guard, schoolchildren, politicians and Roman Catholic clergyman in black robes and brightly colored sashes. Many chanted: “Ho ho! Hey hey! Welcome to the USA!”

Pope Francis arrives at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 22, 2015. (credit: CBS News)

Pope Francis arrives at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 22, 2015. (credit: CBS News)

Pope Francis was then greeted by President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill. Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, were also in attendance.

The pope then drove off in a small Fiat rather than a limo, which is typically used to transport heads of state and other important world figures.

Obama and Pope Francis will meet one-on-one at the White House on Wednesday. The pope will also address Congress, celebrate Mass for 25,000 at the National Basilica and participate in two parades before he heads to New York City.

Work has been going on in Washington for months. And church officials said it has all been worth it.

“The joy, the excitement, the absolute joy when someone receives their ticket and they know they’re going to be here and celebrate Mass with the pope,” said Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

As excitement builds for his first public appearances, Catholics whom CBS2 spoke with said the pontiff’s presence is extremely meaningful.

“Just enrichment of our faith — it’s just very nice,” one woman said.

At St. Anthony School in the Brookland section of Washington, students and faculty were ready to get the papal party started Tuesday, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

Kids even made their own Pope Francis hats.

“I would say I like him, and I would want to talk to him sometime,” one student said

“I would say I love him, and I would say bring me more toys please,” said another student with a laugh.

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Many at the school consider Francis something of a living saint and a great role model as they work to educate minds and build character.

“To see Pope Francis and to hear him so dedicated to the poor and vulnerable, this is all the social principles that we’re teaching our children, so that’s great to see it in our leader,” said Principal Michael Thomasian.

About 20 students will be up early Wednesday to greet Francis as he leaves his D.C. home base, the Vatican Embassy.

Others have been invited to Thursday’s historic speech to Congress, where the pope will be flanked by Biden, a Democrat, on one side and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, on the other — both practicing Catholics.

“You have people from two different parties who are card-carrying, practicing Catholics who really believe that they want to follow the pope and the church’s teaching,” said Monsignor Kevin Irwin of Catholic University of America. ” And I think in that way it shows that there are divisions, but at the same time, something else can unite us that’s over those divisions, and I believe that’s the role that a Holy Father has in terms of bringing us together.”

The pope’s visit is an opportunity to have some fun. But for a 10-year-old from East Patchogue, Long Island, it’s a chance to be in his presence and pray.

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Louisa Taitt is partially blind and at risk for further deterioration. When Francis speaks to Congress, she’ll be in the gallery, courtesy of her congressman.

“This is an opportunity for a deeply religious girl, who Father Martin Curtin says is desperately in need of a miracle and a lot of prayer,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) of Shirley. “So I couldn’t think of anyone better to offer this gallery ticket to than Louisa.”

The Putnam County-based Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, meanwhile, held a watch party at their Washington monastery and cheered as “Shepherd One” touched down.

“I think we have a special bond with him,” said Father Jim Gardiner, a Bronx native. “And I think we feel that because look at the things he’s saying and doing.”

Gardiner said he believes Francis will touch hearts with his message of Christian salvation and service.

At Catholic Charities of D.C., New Jersey native John Collins supervises the kitchen that’s preparing food for Thursday. After the pope visits the Church of St. Patrick, he’ll step outside to find 55 tables set up on the street.

Francis will join dozens of less fortunate people, including many homeless enjoying a mid-day meal.

“I’m hoping the pope grabs a plate because then I have bragging rights,” Collins said.

Monsignor John Enzler will be with Francis as the pope shakes hands and maybe breaks bread with the needy.

“The vulnerable, the downtrodden, the hungry, the homeless — that’s his people,” Enzler said. “I really think frankly he’s more excited about that than the president and Congress because of who he is. He’s just a man of the people.”

“He comes as a pastor. He comes as a shepherd,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston/Houston. “That’s to my mind the clarity of the mission of what Pope Francis is bringing.”

Pope Francis is set to arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 5 p.m. Thursday for a whirlwind trip that includes a prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an address to the United Nations General Assembly, an interfaith service at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a visit to a school in East Harlem, a motorcade through Central Park and Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Security teams are on full alert with thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement on duty in all three cities.

The greatest concern is an attack by a lone wolf.

“No one can say with certainty that you can 100 percent stop everything,” said Philadelphia police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

The security effort is so intense that law enforcement officers went back and studied every attempt on a pope’s life over the past 40 years, CBS2’s Maurice DuBois reported.

“We wanted to remind everybody on these details in all three cities about the way these things have happened in the past, the different ways they’ve been put together,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.

The Argentine known as the “slum pope” for ministering to the downtrodden in his native Buenos Aires is expected to urge America to take better care of the environment and the poor and return to its founding ideals of religious liberty and open arms toward immigrants.

The pope arrived in the U.S. from Cuba, where he just wrapped up a four-day visit.

Before leaving the communist island country, Francis appealed to Cubans to rediscover their Catholic heritage and live a “revolution of tenderness.”

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