White House (AP) Pope Benedict has been welcomed at the White House with pomp, pageantry and cheers.
President Bush and the pontiff walked across the south lawn surrounded by a crowd of more than 9,000 people. An overflow crowd lined the streets outside the White House. The area was decorated with flags of yellow and white for the Vatican and the red, white and blue of America.
Bush told the pope that the American people are open to his message of hope. Benedict said, “God bless America.”
Benedict is the first pope to visit the White House in 29 years.
Today also marks the pontiff's 81st birthday. Songs and anthems that were played at the ceremony -- said to be the White House's largest ever --- included the “Star Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the Holy See, and “Happy Birthday.”