Meet The Philadelphia Nun Inspired By Pope Francis To Stamp Out Poverty

"Poverty is political whether we admit it or not."

A little over a year ago, Sister Mary Scullion received an unexpected call from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The church, she was told, was making plans for the World Meeting of Families -- the international Catholic festival that Pope Francis will visit in the city this week -- and they needed her help.

While the event would in part champion the church’s views on family issues -- including its stances against same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion -- the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, wanted to meet with Scullion to discuss another matter.

Margie McDonald adds to the grotto knots installation in Philadelphia, Sept. 16, 2015.
Margie McDonald adds to the grotto knots installation in Philadelphia, Sept. 16, 2015.
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“The archbishop wanted to talk about how we could protect the poor and hungry,” said Scullion, who has focused on aiding the homeless since joining the Sisters of Mercy more than four decades ago, and who in 1989 launched Project HOME (Housing, Opportunities for Employment, Medical Care and Education), a Philadelphia-based comprehensive social services organization for the chronically homeless. “But I never imagined we could get so much done in that short time.”

Since launching the World Meeting of Families Committee on Hunger and Homelessness, Scullion has used the pope’s high-profile visit and the convergence this week of the nation’s leading Catholic figures to raise $1.3 million to aid 52 projects and organizations centered on helping people struggling with poverty, mental illness or both.

The money, raised through a combination of corporate and individual donations, is part of a three-pronged effort focused on the downtrodden that Scullion has spearheaded. On the Internet, Project HOME’s Mercy and Justice campaign has solicited names and addresses to organize sending 11,000 letters to members of Congress to ask for bipartisan legislation to end and prevent hunger and homelessness. And in a spiritually evocative art installation along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where more than 1 million people are expected to come to see Francis, the Mercy and Justice campaign has created an igloo-shaped grotto covered in knotted ribbons -- 40,000 of them and counting -- where people of all faiths, including Chaput, have shared their hopes, concerns and prayers for themselves, their families and the world.

“Pope Francis says the greatest virtue is mercy,” said Scullion. “But he also said that concrete works of mercy and spiritual development are not enough. We also need systemic change.”

“'The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty,'” she added, quoting remarks the pope made during a visit to a Rio de Janeiro favela in 2013.

Scullion spoke with The Huffington Post about her Mercy and Justice campaign and Project HOME. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Sister Mary Scullion speaks during an event for the Mercy and Justice initiative in Philadelphia.
Sister Mary Scullion speaks during an event for the Mercy and Justice initiative in Philadelphia.
Courtesy of Sister Mary Scullion

Your team has worked with the artist Meg Saligman to create the grotto with knotted ribbons by the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, which the pope is due to visit this week. What’s the inspiration for the project?

We took our inspiration from Pope Francis, from his devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots. When he was young and he was studying in Germany, he was moved by this painting, "Mary, Undoer of Knots." When he went back to Buenos Aires, he commissioned a similar one. It’s asking for the Blessed Mother to help loosen our knot. It’s asking for God’s grace to loosen our knots and in loosening each other, in loosening the knots of hunger, homelessness and mental illness. We went to prisons, to recovery shelters, to food pantries, to the Internet -- everywhere to ask people to submit their knots. We’ve gone to mosques, to synagogues, to all religious communities. We all have our knots and struggles. By sharing those, we all become closer as one human community.

“We all have our knots and struggles. By sharing those, we all become closer as one human community.”

- Sister Mary Scullion

On the knots, people talk about being isolated, broken relationships, those who are sick in their families, people they love who are in prison. At least one person talks about having an eating disorder and needing help and grace to get their life back together.

We also had a stole of knots spun for Pope Francis. We hope he will wear it.

A man places a knot at the grotto in Philadelphia.
A man places a knot at the grotto in Philadelphia.
Courtesy of Sister Mary Scullion

Your goal is to raise $1.5 million to combat homelessness, poverty and mental illness by the time the pope arrives in Philadelphia. You’re just $200,000 shy of that. What kinds of efforts is the money supporting?

We call it the Francis Fund, and you can donate online as little or as much as you want and choose if you want it to go toward food pantries, homelessness and other areas. We’re working with groups of all different faiths, not only in Philadelphia but in our sister city of Camden [New Jersey]. They include projects to make places handicapped-accessible, help women who have been trafficked get housing -- we are giving a group $100,000 to buy a house -- people with special needs such as the mentally ill, as well as one organization, Prevention Point Philadelphia, that wants to install showers for the homeless like the pope did in Rome.

It’s this huge time of civic pride for Philly, but we also wanted to have a lasting impact on the lives of those on the margins.

There has been ongoing debate over the mission of the pope’s trip. Some church officials say it's strictly pastoral and that he’s here to meet the American Catholic people. But he’s also speaking to two of the most powerful political institutions, the U.S. Congress and the United Nations. Your campaign also has a political component, in that it wants better laws to help the poor. What’s your take on the relationship between faith and politics?

“It’s this huge time of civic pride for Philly, but we also wanted to have a lasting impact on the lives of those on the margins.”

- Sister Mary Scullion

There are many vehicles to mercy and justice. We just hope people choose one of them. And we’re offering them ways to join our work via donations, prayer, letters to Congress and more. The pope’s gestures, like washing the feet of women and Muslims, like visiting the prison in Philadelphia, like sharing a meal with the homeless in D.C. -- they are pastoral. But they are also political.

We have 24 hours a day and our actions represent what we think are important. The pope’s actions certainly point to the issues of hunger and homelessness. He doesn’t do it from one political party or ideological standpoint, but it is certainly political. Poverty is political whether we admit it or not.

His pastoral message and gestures have political implications, social implications and spiritual implications.

Goodbye Pope Francis!
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Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day visit to the US.
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People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
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A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
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Catholic devotees sing as they watch Pope Francis' Mass.
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Women pray as they watch the Mass.
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Catholic devotees watch a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis is in the United State for the last of 6 days during his first trip as the leader of the Catholic Church. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Priests offer the crowd communion at Mass along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27, 2015.
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015.
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Chalices for communion are set during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015.
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets corrections officers during a visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility September 27, 015 in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Pope Francis waves to the audience after speaking at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, September 27, 2015 in Wynnewwod, Pennsylvania. After visiting Washington and New York City, Pope Francis concludes his tour of the U.S. with events in Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis presents an image of Our Lady of Charity from Cuba to Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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Pope Francis met privately with survivors of sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Sunday morning.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis speaks at the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Sister Sledge performs at the Festival of Families on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Matt Rourke-Pool/Getty Images)
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Audience members cheer as musician Matt Maher performs at the Festival of Families on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Matt Rourke-Pool/Getty Images)

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A group of people who drove through the night from Townsend, Massachusetts, cross the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from Camden, New Jersey to see Pope Francis and attend the Festival of Families on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia.
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Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 2015.
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Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 2015.
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Pope Francis arrives in Philadelphia on September 26, 2015 on the final leg of his six-day visit to the US.
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People shop for t-shirts and other memorabilia of Pope Francis and the Festival of Families on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia.
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Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden on September 25, 2015 in New York City.

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Pope Francis greets people inside Our Lady Queen of Angels School September 25, 2015 in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
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Pope Francis receives a gift inside Our Lady Queen of Angels School September 25, 2015 in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
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Pope Francis greets people inside Our Lady Queen of Angels School September 25, 2015 in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
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Pope Francis walks in the Historic Exhibiion hall of the 911 Museum Memorial with dignitaries including Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg and looks at a New Testament bible fragment found in debris of the South Tower on September 25, 2015 in New York City.
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Pope Francis attends a multi-religious service for the victims of 9/11 at the memorial in New York.
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Pope Francis speaks during a ceremony inside the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on September 25, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis pauses during a visit to Ground Zero on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Francis visited Ground Zero following his address at the United Nations. The interfaith prayer service will include Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus.
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An attendee takes photos with a cell phone as Pope Francis attends a multi-religious service for the victims of 9/11 at the memorial in New York on September 25, 2015.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis pauses to pray during a visit to Ground Zero on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Francis visited Ground Zero following his address at the United Nations.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis pauses during a visit to Ground Zero on September 25, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis prays at the edge of the South Pool at the World Trade Center on September 25, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis visits the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City and prays at 'Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning' by Spencer Finch on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Reposed behind this blue wall are the remains of many who perished at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis enters Ground Zero on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Pope Francis visited Ground Zero following his address at the United Nations. The interfaith prayer service will include Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus. The Pope will also meet with family members of victims who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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Pope Francis speaks during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015, at the United Nations in New York.
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Pope Francis speaks at the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2015 at the United Nations in New York.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 25, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Pope Francis addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 25, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: The 70th Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 70) is to be held to discuss the full spectrum of international issues such as climate agreement, Daesh attacks, Syrian civil war, refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and Aegean sea on September 25, 2015 at UN headquarter in New York. On 25 September 2015,
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Pope Francis arrives to speak at the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2015 at the United Nations in New York.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Spectators wait along Fifth Avenue ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis at St. )
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis waves to guests as he exits Saint Patrick's Cathedral after leading evening Vespers on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis addresses the congregation during evening Vespers at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis prepares to lead evening Vespers at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Guests take photos of Pope Francis' arrivval at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Crowds wait for Pope Francis to arrive on 5th Avenue on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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Pope Francis waves as he approaches St. Patrick's Cathedral to lead evening prayers in New York on September 24, 2015.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis arrives by helicopter on September 24, 2015 in New York City.
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis departs from Washington, DC en route to New York City on September 24, 2015 in Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis bids farewell to Secretary of State John Kerry as he departs from Washington, DC en route to New York City on September 24, 2015 in Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: U.S. servicemembers prepare for the departure of Pope Francis from Washington, DC en route to New York City on September 24, 2015 in Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: People take pictures in front of a road block on Fifth Avenue ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis at St. Patrick's Cathedral on September 24, 2015 in New York City. Pope Francis will land at John F. Kennedy Airport after a two-day visit to Washington D.C. and will conduct a number of events while in New York including a motorcade through Central Park and Mass in Madison Square Garden.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis, left, has a selfie taken with Michael Brown as he walks through the crowd during a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Cartrice Haynesworth, center, has a selfie taken with Pope Francis, left, as he walks through the crowd during a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Children wait for Pope Francis to arrive and bless a meal outside the Catholic Charities office September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Michael White listens to hymns while waiting for Pope Francis to arrive and bless a meal outside the Catholic Charities office September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis greets parishioners, immigrants and clients of Catholic Charities as he arrives at St. Patrick's Church September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to pray at St. Patrick's Church on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the United States, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba. St. Patrick's is the oldest Catholic parish in Washington. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis (2-R) pauses in front of a sculpture of Spanish-born Junipero Serra, the Franciscan Friar known for starting missions in California, in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the USA, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress and will finish his tour of Washington later today before traveling to New York City.
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WASHINGTON, USA - SEPTEMBER 24: His Holiness Pope Francis enters the House of Representatives chambers to address a joint session of the United States Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, USA on September 24, 2015.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress and will finish his tour of Washington later today before traveling to New York City.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Pope Francis is greeted by members of Congress as he arrives to speak during a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (R) speaks with Pope Francis (L) in the U.S. Capitol building before the Pontiff speaks to a joint meeting of Congress September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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Pope Francis greets well-wishers the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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People gather in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 24, 2015 before Pope Francis addresses a Joint Session of Congress on the third day of his six-day visit to the US.
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Crowds wait for the arrival of Pope Francis at the Capitol building.
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Immigration reform activists hold a banner in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
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Anderson Mayorga, 10, shows off his Pope Francis shirt in Washington DC.
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People pray while Pope Francis celebrates a Canonization Mass for Rev. Junípero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is in the United State for 6 days during his first trip as the leader of the Catholic Church. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis celebrates a Canonization Mass for Rev. Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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Pope Francis delivers a homily during a Canonization Mass for Rev. Juni­pero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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People sing while Pope Francis celebrates a Canonization Mass for Rev. Juni­pero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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People listen during a Canonization Mass with Pope Francis for Rev. Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis speaks to bishops during the midday prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis attends the Midday Prayer Service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Pope began his first trip to the United States at the White House followed by a visit to St. Matthew's Cathedral, and will then hold a Mass on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis arrives at a midday prayer with US bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2015 on the second day of his six-day visit to the US.. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis stands at the altar of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel for a private prayer before participating in the Midday Prayer Service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew on September 23, 2015 in Washington DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis arrives for the midday prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis leans out and waves to the crowd as he rides in a popemobile along a parade route around the National Mall on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Pope Francis blesses a child handed to him during a parade on the streets around the Ellipse, south of the White House, September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.

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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: (L-R) Pope Francis and U.S. President Barack Obama stands for the national anthem of the United States during the arrival ceremony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Pope Francis (L) during the arrival ceremony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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US President Barack Obama talks with Pope Francis during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: (L-R) Pope Francis and U.S. President Barack Obama talk in the Oval Office during the arrival ceremony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and first Lady Michelle Obama (L) wave from the balcony with Pope Francis (C) in an arrival ceremony at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.
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US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis walk down the West Wing Colonnade to a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015.
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Pope Francis speaks during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015. More than 15,000 people packed the South Lawn for a full ceremonial welcome on Pope Francis' historic maiden visit to the United States. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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White House Welcome Ceremony
Live Stream: Pope Francis participates in a welcome ceremony at the White House.
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The White House released a behind the scenes video on what it's like to prepare for a papal visit.

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Pope Francis in town

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US Secretary of State (C) greets clergy as US Vice President Joe Biden (R) looks on before the arrival of Pope Francis at the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington,DC. President Barack Obama will host Pope Francis at the White House for the first time Wednesday, warmly embracing the Catholic pontiff seen as both a moral authority and potent political ally. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Pope Francis waves from the back of his Fiat after arriving from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: (AFP OUT) Pope Francis departs in a Fiat after arriving from Cuba to the United States September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Supporters cheer for Pope Francis after he arrived from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop) Pope Francis (L) is escorted by U.S. President Barack Obama as he greets and other political and Catholic church leaders after arriving from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis greets children alongside US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis (L) walks alongside US President Barack Obama (C) and US First Lady Michelle Obama (R) upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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US President Barack Obama (L) greets Pope Francis (R) upon his arrival September 22, 2015 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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US President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival on September 22, 2015 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Pope Francis shakes hands with Vice President Joe Biden along with U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and other political and Catholic church leaders after arriving from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Pope Francis shakes hands with Vice President Joe Biden along with U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and other political and Catholic church leaders after arriving from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis steps off his plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington. Pope Francis arrived in the United States on Tuesday for his first-ever visit, a trip that will include a meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama and a speech to Congress. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Members of the Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or The Old Guard, roll out the red carpet for Pope Francis ahead of his arrival from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The Pontiff will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington. Pope Francis arrived in the United States on Tuesday for his first-ever visit, a trip that will include a meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama and a speech to Congress. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Pope Francis arrives to the United States from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
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JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Banners celebrating the visit of Pope Francis are hung ahead of his arrival from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The Pontiff will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis T-shirts are seen for sale on a street corner near the White House on September 22, 2015 in Washington, DC.