By Arielle Lipan, WVUA 23 Staff

Pope Francis’ first trip to the U.S. began Wednesday with a lavish welcome ceremony at the White House followed by a full day that brought Washington to a grinding halt.

At the ceremony, President Barack Obama extended a warm welcome to the Holy Father.

“We see a living example of Jesus’ teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds,” he said.

A sea of screaming faithful filled the streets when the pope made his way to St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

“These people will enrich America and its church… May god bless you and our lady watch over you,” he said.

The pope’s visit sparked excitement throughout the country, even energizing Catholics in Tuscaloosa who are excited to see the pope in their country talking about their issues.

Back in Washington, the pontiff pulled no punches while speaking to a collection of U.S. bishops.

He called on the bishops to make sure the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church never happens again.

“I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you,” he said, “and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed.”

From 1950 to 2013, nearly 6,500 U.S. priests have been accused of sexual abuse. As of May 2014, the names of 4,000 U.S. clergy members have been released publicly.

For more information, visit Bishop-Accountability.

Neither Obama nor Francis shied away from tough issues.

“Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” Francis said.

“You remind us that ‘the Lord’s most powerful message’ is mercy … from the refugee who flees war torn lands, to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life,” Obama said.

Francis quoted Martin Luther King Jr., urging more be done for the poor and the planet.

“We can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it,” he said.

The pope’s last day in Washington was Thursday.

Wednesday morning at the Capitol, he spoke to a joint session of Congress, this time encouraging the U.S. to accept immigrants so they can achieve the American dream.

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