MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Americans celebrated Tuesday afternoon as Pope Francis made his first-ever visit to the United States.

He arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and was greeted by the first family.

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He did not make any formal remarks, but smiled and waved at the crowd.

Pope Francis will celebrate mass in front of about 25,000 people, and his U.S. agenda includes both politicians and the poor.

It is unusual to hear all the bells at the Basilica of St. Mary ringing on a Tuesday afternoon — or when the pope lands on U.S. soil for the first time

“We only ring the bells for high holy days or very, very special occasions. Easter, Christmas and Pentecost,” Johan Van Parys, the Basilica’s director of worship, said.

Van Parys met Pope Francis in Europe last October. It was an experience that touched him personally.

“He speaks a language of the heart, and I think people connect with him on the level of the heart very easily,” Van Parys said.

Just a few blocks away at St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis, parishioners prayed for a safe visit.

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“He’s going all over the world to promote world peace and he’s really getting his message across,” parishioner Joe Gleason said.

Pope Francis is often referred to as the “Pope of the People.” He likes to be close to crowds. Photographs often show him holding babies and blessing the sick.

“Security has to be very, very worried,” University of St. Thomas law professor Charles Reid said.

Reid, who also specializes in church law, says he admires the pope’s warm and engaging persona, but he also knows he is here to talk politics.

Pope Francis will visit with lawmakers to talk about immigration, climate change and his plan for world peace.

“We may see some tense moments, especially when he talks on Capitol Hill because he may be saying some things that cause tensions,” Reid said.

The pope’s visit is one of the biggest security operations in the history of the United States. It was almost exactly 50 years ago that Pope Paul VI became the first pope to visit. He talked about world peace and avoiding war.

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Reid expects Pope Francis to spread a similar message.

John Lauritsen