Locals respond to visit by Pope Francis

First time Pope Francis set foot on U.S. soil


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There was a lot of excitement as Pope Francis landed on U.S. soil for the first time Tuesday, for a six-day trip that may see him tackle major national controversies while speaking with President Barack Obama.

"Whenever two heads of states can come together and have an open discussion -- that hopefully is always good. Hopefully, good things will come out of it," Karyn Morton, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County, said.

As the pope makes his historic first visit to the U.S., political experts like Neptune Beach City Council member Kara Tucker, say he is stepping into a few intense issues that the Father of Rome has been quite vocal on in the past.

"I think he has taken a major stance on several social issues, so I'm excited to see what comes from the meeting with the president," Tucker said.

Some of those issues include abortion, climate change, immigration and the definition of marriage. But according to political analyst Jennifer Carroll, the two issues that will be taking center stage are income inequality and addressing the dwindling numbers of the Catholic Church.

"The pope has been very vocal about being anti-capitalist in a sense and wants folks that are making more money to transfer the wealth and give assistance to those that are less capable of doing for themselves," Carroll said.

And that transfer of wealth is an issue that Carroll said falls directly in line with a message that Obama campaigned and governed on for years.

Carroll also said that since the church has had issues with child molestation in years past, this visit is an opportunity to increase those dwindling membership numbers.

"This is a promotional tour for the pope as well. To come to America and try to capture an additional member base. To come back and attract them to the Catholic Church," Carroll said.

"Literally, millions of Catholic and religious people through the country, I think they're very excited about it. And I know it's going to cause a lot of attention, and I'm sure a lot of people are going to be following it," Morton said.