The pope arrived to the White House in a modest Fiat 500L and was greeted by Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. After the president and the pope stepped up the podium, to applause and cheers from hundreds, the national anthem of the Holy See was played followed by "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Francis, 78, will be praised for his work in combating poverty and oppression during a speech delivered by Obama, according to prepared remarks released by the White House. Francis will also be commended for his role in helping mediate efforts between Cuba and the United States, which led to both nations formally re-establishing diplomatic ties after decades.
"Good morning! What a beautiful day the Lord has made! Holy Father, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House," Obama said at the south lawn of the White House. "I should explain that our backyard is not typically this crowded -- but the size and spirit of today's gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics. It reflects as well the way your message of love and hope has inspired so many people, across our nation and around the world."
"On behalf of the American people, it is my great honor and privilege to welcome you to the United States of America," Obama said.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Speaker of the House John Boehner, who are both Catholics, attended the event, in addition to some 11,000 ticketed attendees, not including military and other official guests.
"Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example. And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency. All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true and right. But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better," Obama added.
"Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to 'never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!'"... For that great gift of hope, Holy Father, we thank you, and welcome you, with joy and gratitude, to the United States of America," Obama concluded.
Francis thanked Obama and the American people for the welcome.
Francis said he was "encouraged" by Obama "proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution."
"Climate change is a problem that can no longer be left for a future generation," Francis said, stating it was necessary to create change not only for future generations but for the millions affected by a system that has "overlooked" them.
"We know by faith that the creator does not abandon us. He never forsakes his loving plan or repents for having created us," Francis said. "We wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home."
Francis urged the world to support organizations who help the poor.
"Mr. president, once again, I thank you for your welcome and I look forward for these days in this country. God bless America," Francis concluded.
The pope's visit has caused some controversy, as Francis received criticism on views considered as liberal. Conservative Republicans have condemned Francis' recognition of climate change and his criticism of the capitalist economic model.
After the White House event, the highly anticipated Papal Parade begins along Washington D.C.'s Ellipse and National Mall about 11 a.m., leading to a midday prayer with U.S. bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
On Thursday, the pope will address a joint meeting of Congress at 9:20 a.m. before visiting the St. Patrick Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington starting about 11 a.m.
After visiting Washington D.C., the pope will head to New York City and Philadelphia.