Pope Francis has landed in the United States for the first time ever–but he would’ve been here a little bit sooner, had Obama not intervened.
According to reports from The Atlantic, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were running late to meet the pope. So they forced air traffic control to put the pope into a holding pattern over North Carolina.
It’s visible on the tracking for the papal jet–an Alitalia jet that’s been given the call sign Shepherd One: it made a few loops over southeastern North Carolina on its way from Havana, Cuba, where the pope’s previous stop had been, to Washington, D.C.
As if putting the pope into a holding pattern wasn’t insult enough, that still didn’t give Obama enough time: the pope was standing at the top of the air stairs for two minutes and eighteen seconds. According to reports, he could be seen hanging back near the plane’s bulkhead, waiting to get greeted by a White House official.
President Obama and the pope finally met for the first time on the tarmac shortly after.
Immediately, Obama’s lateness and lack of respect for the head of the Catholic Church was slammed on Twitter and in the media.
Radio host Brian Sussman summed it up succinctly: “Obama’s Papal diss? Even if you aren’t Catholic you don’t keep the Pope waiting.”
The White House, however, fired back on claims–saying that Obama’s meeting with the pope had been scheduled for 4pm–and that Obama had arrived at the airport at 3:31, before the papal jet. Other reports say that, because Pope Francis left early from Cuba, he had to circle in order to arrive on time in Washington, D.C.
But, if the pope really had been the victim of Obama’s schedule, it wouldn’t be the first snub Obama has planned for this week: his official reception with the Holy Father will include a number of Catholic dissidents, including transgender activists and pro-abortion nuns.
After his time in Washington, Pope Francis will continue his American tour with visits to Philadelphia and New York.