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Pope Francis's visit to the US begins with stop in Washington, DC

Pope Francis, in 2014.
Pope Francis, in 2014.
Franco Origlia/Getty

This week, Pope Francis will travel to Washington, DC, New York City, and Philadelphia in his first-ever visit to the United States. It will be only the 10th time a sitting pope has ever traveled to the US, and the first since Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI visited in April 2008.

But Francis's visit is particularly hotly anticipated due to his popularity, and all three cities are engaged in elaborate logistical and security preparations to deal with what are expected to be massive crowds, full of Catholics and other curious onlookers. In various speeches, the Pope is expected to tackle topics that include climate changewhich he believes governments must do more to address. Here's the official schedule, to which PopeFrancisVisit.com adds much more detail.

Washington, DC visit: Tuesday to Thursday

Francis will arrive at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, DC today at 4 pm eastern time. He doesn't have any public events today, but he'll spend the night at the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States — essentially, the Vatican's embassy to the US — in the Embassy Row area.

On Wednesday morning at 9:15 am, Francis will head to the White House for a welcoming ceremony and a meeting with President Obama. Then, at 11 am, he'll ride the Popemobile in a Papal Parade over to Saint Matthew's Cathedral for a midday prayer. And at 4:15 pm, he'll say mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This will be a Spanish-language canonization mass that will officially deem Father Junipero Serra, an 18th century Spanish missionary to the Americas, a Catholic saint. It's the first canonization ceremony ever in the United States, but the choice of Serra has caused some controversy due to his role in the often-brutal colonization processThis mass will be livestreamed to crowds via screens around the city, and can also be watched online here.

On Thursday morning at 9:20 am, Francis will arrive at the Capitol, where he'll deliver a 10 am address to the House of Representatives and Senate. (One Republican Congressman, Paul Gosar of Arizona, has said he'll boycott the speech because of media reports that Francis will focus on climate change, which Gosar believes is "false science.") Afterward, he'll visit St. Patrick's Catholic Church and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, before departing the DC area around 4 pm.

New York visit: Thursday and Friday

Pope Francis will fly into New York on Thursday afternoon, and will head right to St. Patrick's Cathedral to pray the Evening Prayer at a 6:45 pm Vespers service. Only clergy of the cathedral are permitted to attend.

The next day, Friday morning, he'll speak to the United Nations General Assembly at 8:30 am. He'll then head to the 9/11 memorial site for a multireligious service at 11:30 am, visit the Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem at 4 pm, and ride in the Popemobile through Central Park around 5 pm. In the evening, he'll celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden at 6 pm.

Philadelphia visit: Saturday and Sunday

On Saturday morning, Francis will fly in to Philadelphia, arriving around 9:30 am. He'll say mass that morning at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 10:30 am in an event that will be closed to the public, before giving an outdoor speech at the Independence Mall at 4:45 pm. Finally, on Saturday night, the pope will attend the Festival of Families, a star-studded event featuring Andrea Bocelli and Aretha Franklin, and hosted by Mark Wahlberg.

On Sunday, Francis will meet with bishops at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary around 9:30 amvisit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility at 11 am, and then celebrate a closing mass for the World Meeting of Families outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art at 4 pm. That evening, he'll head to Philadelphia International Airport, where he'll meet with World Meeting of Families organizers at 7 pm before departing for Rome around 8 pm.