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Thousands Descend On Washington, D.C., To See Pope Francis


After his visit to the White House, Pope Francis took a short ride along part of the National Mall. Thousands of people lined the streets waiting for hours just to get a look at him. NPR's Jennifer Ludden has more on who came out and why.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Thousands jammed sidewalks well before dawn - families, infants strapped into baby carriers, pregnant women who kept having to sit down. And as the pope mobile finally passed by...


LUDDEN: ...Some were overcome with emotion.

LINDA FRANKLIN: Oh, my goodness, is all I could say.

LUDDEN: Linda Franklin (ph) came from Detroit to see the pope. She was in tears, touched, she said, by the presence of a holy man.

FRANKLIN: I love Pope Francis. I love what he stands for. I love the message. I love the new life that he's bring into the Catholic Church and not just the Catholic Church. He is a pope for all Christians.

LUDDEN: Scott Colachesky (ph) and his wife brought their three young children from North Carolina to share the experience. He likes that Francis is humble.

SCOTT COLACHESKY: I think his earthliness and his desire to be with the people is a real imitation of Christ.

LUDDEN: Earlier, a giant Jumbotron broadcast the pope's speech at the White House.


POPE FRANCIS: Good morning.


LUDDEN: He got lots of applause, especially so when he mentioned marriage and family and the need to combat climate change. Brian Cannon (ph) of Maryland appreciated that.

BRIAN CANNON: The fact that he came from South American, maybe he's seeing things that we obviously don't see up here in the United States or more developed countries. And that's important for the big picture.

LUDDEN: Others seemed to hear what they wanted. Sandra Paz (ph) of Virginia took the day off her job as a Starbucks barista to be here. She was born in Bolivia. That's close to Argentina, she says, where Francis is from. She loves that he puts the rights of immigrants on his agenda.

SANDRA PAZ: We know the way he talks. You can feel - because the way he speaks - you can feel how much he is into this with us.

LUDDEN: Ryan Widner (ph), in town from Des Moines, Iowa, picked up on a different part of the pope's speech.

RYAN WIDNER: There was even a touch of a conversation about equality, and I think he was hinting more towards LGBT rights for equality than anything else.

LUDDEN: Which Widner appreciates as a gay man. He wouldn't have stood in line for any other pope, he says, but this one was worth the wait. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington. 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.