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Pope-Watchers Stake Out D.C. Parade Route


Outside the gates of the White House, thousands of people are gathered, eager to get a glimpse of Pope Francis. The pope finished speaking minutes ago to about 15,000 people lucky enough to be inside for a ceremony on the South Lawn. President Obama acknowledged the crowd in his welcome to the pope.


BARACK OBAMA: I should explain that our backyard is not typically this crowded.


OBAMA: But the size and the spirit of today's gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics.

MONTAGNE: Many, many more people were lined up along the route Francis will take through downtown Washington on his way from the White House to midday prayers with U.S. bishops, among them NPR's Jennifer Ludden, who is on the line with us now.

And Jennifer, tell us the highlights of the pope's comments.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Hi Renee. Well, you know, he got a lot of applause lines. People were applauding just about every point he made, but I can tell you that some of the loudest came when he gave a shout-out to the institution of marriage and the family, and also quite a big reaction when he talked about protecting the environment and climate change, a lot of applause there as well - from a crowd that's been out here since 4 o'clock in the morning, I might add. So they were very happy to at least see him on a giant Jumbotron even though he hasn't passed by in his popemobile yet.

MONTAGNE: And of course, you've been there all morning and talking to people since, you know, dawn basically. Tell me what they've said.

LUDDEN: They are here they say to - because they really feel touched by Pope Francis's message and what he has to say. A lot of people said, you know, they might have come for any pope, but really this one in particular speaks to them. I talked with Claire Nalens, who is from Baltimore, and she says that she finds Francis inspiring.

CLAIRE NALENS: I find his message very simple. It's just all about love and treating everybody with respect and pride in yourself.

LUDDEN: There's people who said they're very proud to have a Hispanic leader of the church. Some people said that they really want him to speak out about helping the poor, that that message should resonate here in a country where so many are wealthy and well off.

MONTAGNE: And Jennifer, what will the pope be doing for the rest of what is a glorious autumn day here in Washington, D.C.?

LUDDEN: Fabulous day. He is going to, in a moment - in a few moments - come down in his popemobile, go around the South Lawn of the White House, touching across the part of the national park, the National Mall, where the Washington Monument is. Then he will head up to St. Matthews Cathedral downtown. The archbishop of the archdiocese is based there. He will address bishops, and some will be hearing with interest to see what he tells them. Then this afternoon he'll celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and he will canonize a Franciscan friar, the first one to be - from Latin America to be made a saint, Junipero Serra, who established missions in California.

MONTAGNE: All right, busy day for the pope. Thank you very much. NPR's Jennifer Ludden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.