Barack Obama rolls out red carpet for Pope Francis
But pressure over abuse could overshadow visit
Pope Francis yesterday arrived in the US where he is likely to face pressure for the Catholic Church to do more to pursue justice for the victims of clerical child abuse.
The pontiff arrived at Andrews Air Force Base for his first US visit after a tour of Cuba, where he met Fidel Castro. Before leaving the communist country, Francis appealed to Cubans to rediscover their Catholic heritage and live a "revolution of tenderness".
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, were there to welcome the Pope.
Mr Obama and the pontiff will meet one-on-one at the White House today.
Advocates for victims of child abuse by Catholic priests are urging Francis to use his visit to offer new reassurances that the Vatican is prepared to take additional steps to pursue past perpetrators.
The pressure on the Pope will likely be at its greatest when he visits Philadelphia, one of several American cities rocked over the past decade by revelations not just of sexual assaults by the clergy, but also by attempts to cover up cases of abuse.
Among those invited to attend the events in Philadelphia is Cardinal Justin Rigali, who resigned as Archbishop of the city in 2011 as the paedophile scandal there was reaching its height, and just months before the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, the ex-Archbishop's former head of clergy, for covering up cases of abuse and failing to report them.
Lynn, who remains the only Catholic official in the US to have been convicted in connection with the scandal, was until recently an inmate of the Curran-Fromhold prison, just north of Philadelphia.
However, he was moved to another facility shortly after it was announced that Pope Francis's schedule would include a visit to the prison.
"I think that the Church would like people to think that this is over," Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, a member of Catholic Whistleblowers, said last week. "It's not over."