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October 6, 1979

Pope John Paul II arrived at 1:43 p.m. in an open-topped limousine. He smiled and waved at onlookers on Pennsylvania Avenue as he was driven through the northwest gate. The Pope greeted President Jimmy Carter, First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and Vice President and Mrs. Mondale under the red-carpeted North Portico, and kissed 11 year-old Amy Carter. Inside, Carter and the Pope held a private meeting in the Oval Office for one hour and then emerged before 6,000 people gathered on the South Lawn. Carter said, in Polish, “Niech bedzie bog Pochwalony” (May God be praised). The Pope responded, “It gives me great joy to be the first Pope in history to come to the capital of this nation, and I thank almighty God for this blessing.” They then walked up the south side steps into the Blue Room and then ascended to the second floor and came out to wave on the Truman Balcony. After delivering a papal blessing from the Truman Balcony the Pope descended to the South Lawn to mingle and to shake hands with the crowd for 20 minutes. The Pope left about 5:00 p.m.

April 16, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI arrived at the White House on his 81st birthday. At the arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, soprano Kathleen Battle sang a version of “The Lord’s Prayer” before about 13,500 guests. The Pope received a 21-gun salute and the U.S. Marine Band played “Inno e Marcia Pontificale” (the national anthem of the Holy See) and “The Star Spangled Banner.” The Pope and President George W. Bush both spoke briefly and then were accompanied by First Lady Laura Bush as they walked up the west steps to the balcony next to the Blue Room, where the Pope spread his arms and received cheers. Inside the White House, the president offered the Pope cake to mark the pontiff’s birthday before they went into the Oval Office for a private meeting.

September 23, 2016

In September 2015, Pope Francis embarked on a six-day tour of the United States, visiting Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. His welcome in Washington, D.C. has been President Obama’s largest State Arrival Ceremony during his presidency. On Tuesday, September 22, at 4:00 p.m., Pope Francis landed as Joint Base Andrews in Maryland where he was welcomed by the First Family. The next day, September 23, Pope Francis was welcomed at the White House for a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn. Afterward, the Pope met with President Obama in the Oval Office. On September 24, he addressed a joint session of Congress before leaving Washington for New York.

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About the White House Historical Association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $100 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit

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