(AGI) Washington, Sept. 23 - U.S. President Barack Obama andhis wife Michelle on Wednesday morning welcomed Pope Francis atthe White House. The Pontiff arrived to the ceremony in a Fiat500L. Together with Mr. Obama, the Pope then walked to a smallpodium on the White House South Lawn, where they listened totheir national anthems in front of military formations. "Ourbackyard is not typically this crowded but the size and spiritof today's gathering is just a small reflection of the deepdevotion of some 70 million American Catholics," the U.S.president said to a crowd of about 15,000 invitees. "I believethe excitement around your visit must be attributed not only toyour role as Pope, but to your unique qualities as a person. Inyour humility, your embrace of simplicity, the gentleness ofyour words and the generosity of your spirit, we see a livingexample of Jesus' teachings, a leader whose moral authoritycomes not just through words but also through deeds." PopeFrancis responded in his speech: "As the son of an immigrantfamily, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which waslargely built by such families. I look forward to these days ofencounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, andshare, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.During my visit I will have the honour of addressing Congress,where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words ofencouragement to those called to guide the nation's politicalfuture in fidelity to its founding principles. With countlessother people of good will, they are likewise concerned thatefforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respecttheir deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty.That freedom remains one of America's most preciouspossessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops,have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely asgood citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom fromeverything that would threaten or compromise it.". .