After , Pope Francis embarked on his tour of Washington, D.C., riding the –a specially built, unarmored Jeep Wrangler. Late Wednesday morning, the Popemobile rode slowly along some of the capital’s most well known streets as thousands of onlookers cheered him on.
Along his route, as he often does, the pontiff periodically stopped to bless babies and children. One young girl managed to get past the barricade and tried to walk over to the pope. A bodyguard intercepted her and lifted her up to meet Pope Francis, who gave her a hug and kiss.
Many of those who gathered to view the Pope’s parade were brimming with enthusiasm about the moment.
“Catholics – they take years to change anything,” David Shaw, a 45-year-old originally from the Bronx in New York City, told CBS News before the parade began. But in the Vatican, Shaw added, Pope Francis “is literally someone who’s breathing new air through that stuffy, old palace.”
“He’s just doing wonderful things to bring in people to the religion, including the gays — like myself,” Shaw said.
When asked what he’ll do when he sees the pontiff, Shaw answered: “I’ll probably start crying. I’m an Italian, so I’m very emotional.”
Maria Lira traveled from York, Pennsylvania to see Pope Francis in Washington, DC, Sept. 23, 2015 CBS News/Reena Flores
Maria Lira, 51, made the journey to D.C. from a detention center in York, Pennsylvania. She traveled with the 100 Women 100 Miles pilgrimage, aiming to draw attention to the plight of undocumented immigrants and their families in the United States.
“We want the pope to be our voice when he goes to talk to the president and Congress,” Lira, who is originally from Nuevo Loredo, Mexico, said. “We are tired of seeing the abuse and deportation of immigrants.”
The pope arrived in Washington on Tuesday, beginning his first trip to the U.S. in his lifetime. He’ll give a speech to U.S. Bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in downtown Washington, D.C. later on Wednesday, and he’ll then celebrate an outdoor mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast D.C.
Pope Francis 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. Allison Shelley, Getty Images
On Thursday, , and then he’ll head to New York to address the United Nations and commemorate the September 11 terror attacks. On Saturday, he’ll head to Philadelphia, his last stop in the U.S.