President Obama welcomes Pope Francis to US for historic visit

Pope Francis' historic six-day visit to the US began with a warm welcome from the country's president Barack Obama. In a break from protocol, Mr Obama and vice president Joe Biden and their families travelled specifically to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to welcome the Pope.

Landing in his chartered Italian plane with Vatican and US flags flying from the cockpit, the Catholic leader was met with chants of "Francisco" and "Welcome to the USA! Hello! Hey!"

Before his arrival a high school band had sung a rendition of Pharrell Williams' Happy at the airport to set the mood.

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Pope Francis was met with chants of "Welcome to the USA! Hello! Hey!"

Showing his charismatic nature, President Obama greeted the Pope - who had flown in from Cuba - with a handshake and a big smile, which the 78-year-old pontiff returned.

First Lady Michelle Obama was also on hand, looking radiant in a cornflower blue dress that featured a cowl neckline. Her daughters Malia, 17, and Sasha, 14, also dressed elegantly in flowing skirts and black tops.

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A high school band sang a rendition of Pharrell Williams' Happy at the airport

A crowd of locals, schoolchildren, Roman Catholic clergymen and military honour guards had also flocked to the airport to meet the Argentine-born Pope.

After a brief meeting with President Obama in a VIP suite, the Pope was driven to Washington in a black Fiat hatchback car – a reasonably modest mode of transport, in keeping with his rejection of the pomp and grandeur that comes with the papacy.

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First Lady Michelle Obama looked radiant in a cornflower blue dress

Pope Francis was bound for the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States in Washington, where he rested for the night before starting engagements on Wednesday.

During his five-day tour, the Pope will visit Washington, New York and Philadelphia. He is expected to address thorny issues such as climate change and income inequality.

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Her daughters Sasha and Malia also welcomed the Pope in Maryland

His first engagement will be at the White House, where he will meet with President Obama, followed by a papal parade along Washington's National Mall. The Pope will also address Congress on Thursday, and will hold a multi-religious service at the 11 September Memorial and Museum on Friday, in memory of the 2011 terrorist attacks. He will also hold a mass at Madison Square Garden.

This is the Pope's first visit to the US and will culminate in Philadelphia on Sunday.

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