Pope Francis, president talk climate change at White House

Canonization ceremony to be held at Washington basilica

WASHINGTON - Jumping into the issues of the day, Pope Francis opened his visit to the United States with a strong call Wednesday for action to combat climate change, calling it a problem that "can no longer be left to a future generation."

President Barack Obama, in turn, hailed the pontiff as a moral force who is "shaking us out of our complacency" with reminders to care for the poor and the planet.

The White House mustered all the pageantry it had to offer as the pope arrived at the White House before an adoring crowd of thousands and a nation that seemingly cannot get enough of the humble pontiff who is rejuvenating American Catholicism while giving heartburn to some of its conservatives.

Speaking in a soft voice and halting English, Francis delivered a strong message against those who doubt the science of climate change, saying that the warming planet "demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition" of conditions awaiting today's children.

READ: Text of pope's speech to president

It was a message sure to delight the Obama White House, and liberals in general. But the pope's message had something for conservatives, too, with a pointed call to protect religious liberties -- "one of America's most precious possessions."

"All are called to be vigilant, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it," Francis said.

That message was sure to be welcomed by many U.S. bishops and conservatives who have objected to the Obama administration's health care mandate and the recent Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage.

With flags snapping, color guard at attention and a military band's brassy marches, Francis stepped from his modest Fiat onto the South Lawn on a crisp fall morning that felt as optimistic as his own persona. Pope and president stood on a red-carpeted platform bedecked with red, white and blue bunting, standing at attention for the national anthems of the Holy See and the United States.

The pope took his time getting to the White House, stopping to greet schoolchildren who had gathered outside the Vatican's nunciature. The children took selfies with the pope, hugged him and waved Holy See flags.

Thousands more were gathering for a morning parade on streets near the White House.

Obama later met with the pope in the Oval Office.

READ: Text of Obama's speech to Pope Francis

Washington was the first stop on the pope's six-day, three-city visit to the U.S.

People of all faiths wanted to be a part of it, from the hundreds on hand for his arrival at Joint Base Andrews late Tuesday to the clumps of spectators outside the Vatican's diplomatic mission where the pope was staying. Then there were the 15,000 people expected at Wednesday's White House arrival ceremony.

People of all faiths wanted to be a part of it, from the hundreds on hand for his arrival at Joint Base Andrews late Tuesday to the clumps of spectators outside the Vatican's diplomatic mission where the pope was staying. Then there were the 15,000 people expected at Wednesday's White House arrival ceremony.

Later in the day, Francis is expected to canonize Spanish-born Franciscan friar Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Concepcion.

Serra's canonization is not welcomed by everyone. There has been backlash by ancestors of the Native American people whom he tried to convert to Catholicism.

"I can think of nothing good that came from the mission times," Amah Mutsun Tribal Band chairman Valentin Lopez said. "They totally destroyed our culture. They destroyed our people. They destroyed our environment, and they stole our land. What good can come of that?"

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