Pope Francis

Updated at 9:40 p.m. ET

Pope Francis, in a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, spoke of the need to preserve religious freedom throughout the world and warned against the use of religion "as a pretext for hatred and brutality."

"In this place which is symbolic of the American way, I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom," he said. "It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own."

Papist / Flickr/CC

Since his selection, there’s been intense interest in Pope Francis’s leadership, among Catholics and non-Catholics.  And that interest is growing, as he now heads to the U.S. with a packed schedule that includes an unprecedented Congressional address….and a tendency to tackle politically charged issues, from capitalism to climate change.  


Last March, the election of Pope Francis was announced with a billow of white smoke. Nine months later, the media remain in a papal haze.  Time Magazine named Pope Francis its person of the year. Francis also topped Esquire's list of 2013's best-dressed men, and Buzzfeed jumped on the papal bandwagon with its list of "The 19 Best Pope Francis Moments of 2013".

Christus Vincit / Flickr Creative Commons

Pope Benedict the 16th stunned the Catholic world in February by announcing his retirement: the first papal resignation in 700 years. And since the election of Pope Francis in March, the surprises have only continued: he’s the first Latin American pope, the first Jesuit, the first pope from the southern hemisphere.