(dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday departed from Rome's Fiumicino airport to journey to the United States - his first visit there as pontiff.
Benedict left Rome on an Alitalia Boeing 777 jet at 12:15 pm (1015 GMT) and was expected to arrive at Washington's Andrews Air Force Base at 2000 GMT, according to a Fiumicino spokesman.
President George W Bush planned to greet Benedict on the pontiff's arrival.
The two are scheduled to meet again on Wednesday for talks at the White House.
Benedict is also set to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York on April 18, and visit Ground Zero, the site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The pontiff's US visit is scheduled to last through April 20.
During the five-day visit, Benedict will also speak out on the sexual abuse scandal involving priests that has shaken the US Roman Catholic Church, according to the Vatican.
Since the scandal first came to light in 2002, the Catholic Church has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to the victims who were children when the violations occurred.
In the United States Roman Catholics number around 70 million, the third largest concentration in the world after Brazil and Mexico.
Meetings are also planned between the pontiff and leaders of other religious faiths - Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism - and with leaders of several other Christian denominations in the United States.