The significance of Pope Francis' visit with President Obama

Pope Francis To Be Greeted At Airport By Obama
Pope Francis To Be Greeted At Airport By Obama

Pope Francis will land in the nation's capital on Tuesday and President Barack Obama will be there to greet him -- a gesture that the New York Times reports has rarely been extended to foreign visitors.

While in the nation's capital, the pope will visit the White House and meet with President Obama,
making him the third pope to ever do so.

See more coverage of the pope's visit:Pope Francis' schedule for his US visit

Conservative Catholics call Pope Francis "Obama's pope" as he's aligned with the president's stance on climate change, economic inequality, and criminal justice reform.

Obama has done more to tackle climate change than any other president in our nation's history. Pope Francis wrote a papal encyclical calling on Catholics to use renewable energies over conventional fuels.

Ending poverty has also been a focus for both leaders. Pope Francis focuses mainly on helping the poor, and during a meeting with the United Nations he called for more equitable income distribution. Obama has spent a majority of his presidency fighting for the middle class in order to fight income inequality.

Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit a federal prison in order to speak with inmates about criminal justice reform. The pope plans on visiting a prison in Philadelphia to highlight his call for prison reform.

See photos of the pope's arrival in Washington, D.C.

However, despite the similarities, the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says the trip isn't political.

"The goal of the pope's visit to the United States is not to advance any political agenda," he told the Washington Post. "But rather, to acknowledge the significant Catholic population inside the United States and the shared values of these two world leaders."

There seems to already be some political controversy surrounding the pope's visit. An anonymous Vatican leader told the Wall Street Journal they're less than thrilled with Obama's guest list for the pope, which includes the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, an activist nun, and an advocate for transgender equality in the church.

Former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argues Obama is turning the pope's visit into a "politicized cattle call for gay and pro-abortion activists." But Earnest points out that Huckabee and others are focusing on three of the 15,000 people who will welcome the pope to Washington D.C.

Pope Francis has urged to church to stop obsessing over homosexuality and abortion.

To the billion Catholics who look to the pontiff for guidance, Pope Francis has enacted many reforms during his first few years as pontiff -- many of which fall in line with progressive values -- and stand to better millions of people's lives.

5 Ways The Pope Has Helped ALL People
5 Ways The Pope Has Helped ALL People

1. He took a stand for gays.

Representing a religion notorious for being slow to evolve, in an interview the pontiff once said quote "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?"

2. He's a feminist

In his first press conference, the pope said that 'the role of women in the Church must not be limited to being mothers, workers, a limited role. . . No! It is something else!'

Within his first year the new pope observed Holy Thursday by washing the feet of young inmates, including women for the first time.

3. He played a key role in U.S.-Cuba reconciliation.

The pope wrote a personal letter to President Obama -- something he'd never done before and a separate letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro. According to a Vatican statement, the letters invited the leaders to "resolve humanitarian questions of common interest." The pope's support was particularly important given Cuba's historical and cultural Catholic identity.

4. He made being thrifty cool

The Holy Father has famously insisted on living a humble life, and has urged the rest of the church hierarchy to do the same. And he didn't just talk the talk-- he traded in the pope's Mercedes popemobile for a Hyundai, and declared how he wished for a poor church and church for the poor.

5. He stands up for inclusion

Not only has the Pope made a strong commitment to interfaith dialogue -- he's redeemed atheists. Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists.

Read more special coverage on Pope Francis' visit to the U.S.:
Papal visit may revitalize American Catholicism's image
What non-Catholics think about the pope's visit
A brief history of the popemobile

Originally published