Pope Francis Greets Adoring Crowd From Capitol Balcony, Offers Blessing

Pope Francis greets the crowd at the U.S. Capitol
Pope Francis greets the crowd at the U.S. CapitolNBC News

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By Erin McClam

Pope Francis addressed an adoring crowd of tens of thousands on the Capitol lawn on Thursday, blessing the children and asking for prayers and good wishes, even from those “who do not believe.”

After his speech to Congress, the pope emerged on a balcony on the west front of the Capitol. Francis, the first Latin American pope, was greeted by enormous cheers and said, “Buenos dias!”

Pope Francis greets the crowd at the U.S. CapitolNBC News

He spoke facing the National Mall and the distant Washington Monument, as presidents do during inaugurations. Speaking in Spanish, he said: “I am so grateful for your presence here!”

He delivered a blessing for children in the crowd, whom he called “the most important ones here”:

“Father of all, bless these. Bless each of them. Bless the families. Bless them all. And I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.”

As cheers rose again, he concluded: “Thank you. Thank you very much. And God bless America!”