The final countdown has begun to Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States.
The pontiff spent his final night in Cuba Monday laying flowers at the foot of the country’s patron saint. After three scheduled events in Santiago de Cuba Tuesday morning, Francis will wrap up his three-day visit to Cuba and fly to Washington D.C. in the afternoon, marking the tenth time a pope has set foot on U.S. soil.
The 78-year-old pontiff will be in America for six days for a three-city tour in the Northeast, the first papal visit to the U.S. in more than seven years, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.
The first stop is the nation’s capital. President Obama will welcome him to the White House Wednesday, along with a crowd of 15,000 on the South Lawn.
In an unprecedented move, the Holy Father will address a joint meeting of Congress Thursday, marking the first time a pope has spoken to both chambers.
Both events in the nation’s capital are not without opposition. One Arizona Republican congressman says he’s boycotting the speech because of the pope’s views on climate change.
The guest list for the meeting at the White House – which includes a transgender advocate, an activist nun, and the first gay episcopal bishop – is also firing up Mr. Obama’s critics.
“I’m not sure that President Obama needs to school and lecture Pope Francis on Catholic doctrine and why he’s wrong,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said on “The Kelly File” on Fox News.
After spending two days in D.C., the pontiff will travel to New York Thursday, joining 170 world leaders, including Mr. Obama, for the United Nations General Assembly, which is creating a massive challenge for security officials.
Friday morning, Francis will address the General Assembly before saying Mass for thousands at Madison Square Garden.
Saturday marks his final U.S. stop, in Philadelphia, where he will deliver a speech Sunday from the same podium used by President Lincoln for the Gettysburg Address.
Upon his arrival in Washington, Francis will stay in the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See — otherwise known as the Vatican’s Embassy in Washington– in the heart of Embassy Row, just across the street from the vice presidential mansion.
The pope has shunned upscale wares in his daily life, choosing a “simpler” aesthetic at home. And while the first floor at the Nunciature is elegantly furnished, he may be pleased to hear the upper floors where he’ll be staying are more modest.