WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a ceremony at the White House Wednesday, President Obama presented Pope Francis with a replica MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper drone which the Pentagon has officially renamed the ‘MQ-9 Pope Francis.’ In addition, the president invited the Pope to witness a real-time drone operation from the comfort of the White House Situation Room.
Speaking from the Briefing Room, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the MQ-9 Pope Francis, a $16.9 million unmanned combat air vehicle, “delivered a devastating blow to Islamic extremism” during its first flight Wednesday. Earnest said Pope Francis briefly took control of the unmanned drone using a remote operating platform provided by the CIA. “He was a natural,” added Earnest.
Pope Francis, who is in Washington as part of his first visit to the United States this week, applauded President Obama “for doing the Lord’s work” in regards to the drone program and condemned the Islamic State for its “intolerable brutality,” particularly against Christians.
The Pope celebrated his first mass in the United States Wednesday evening at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. There, Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra, a Catholic missionary from Spain who founded twenty-one Spanish missions in California from 1769 to 1823.
Pope Francis is scheduled to address Congress Thursday morning during a joint session before visiting St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. to attend a lunch for the homeless. From there, he will depart Washington via Joint Base Andrews for New York.