Welcome to America! Pope Francis landed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday, Sept. 22, kicking off his historic, first-ever visit to the United States. In honor of this landmark occasion, Us Weekly’s Commemorative Special Edition, Pope Francis: His Journey to America, uncovers 25 things you need to know about the spiritual leader, 78. (Check out some highlights in the video above!)
1. He's an actual scientist. After earning a degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires, the Argentina-born future pope studied philosophy at the Colegio de San Jose in San Miguel, Argentina. He also has a doctorate in theology.
2. His mom didn't want him to be a priest. When Pope Francis first entered a Jesuit seminary at 21, his mother refused to visit him. He has said she was "extremely upset."
3. As a boy, he collected stamps for fun. Today, he says, "I really like reading and listening to music."
4. Celebrities can't wait to meet him. Famous fans include Russell Crowe, Chris Rock, Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt.
5. He has had three girlfriends. When he was 12, he proposed to his first love, his neighbor Amalia Damonte. He later had a teenage romance and then fell in love at 22 with a girl he met at an uncle's wedding.
6. He hasn't watched television since he made a promise to the Virgin Mary to turn off the tube in 1990.
7. He has only one lung. As a teen, he suffered a severe infection that required surgery to remove part of one lung.
8. To earn money as a student, the pope (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) worked as a bouncer at an Argentine nightclub.
9. He's a rebel. During the harsh Argentine dictatorship, Pope Francis regularly hid people on church property, and once even gave identity papers to a man with similar features, enabling him to escape across the border.
10. He's a baller — a basketballer, that is! Bergoglio shot hoops with friends when he was a teen, and has a personalized jersey from the Boston Celtics.
11. His favorite painting is The White Crucifixion by Jewish artist Marc Chagall.
12. He's on Twitter! His handle, @Pontifex, has more than 6 million followers — 14 million including the nine different language versions.
13. He makes his own to-do list. Unlike past popes, who maintained detailed public schedules, Pope Francis pencils his own appointments in a private datebook — which has ruffled some feathers at the Vatican.
14. He's a big soccer fan. The pope is an official club member for his lifelong favorite team, the San Lorenzo Football Club.
15. He loves Mozart. "The 'Et Incarnatus Est' from his Mass in C Minor is matchless; it lifts you to God," Francis has said. "Mozart fulfills me."
16. He knows how to dance the tango.
17. His favorite saint is St. Therese of Lisieux. He kept a photo of the French nun, who died in 1897, in his library in Buenos Aires.
18. He loves chatting on the phone. Though he doesn't own a mobile, the pontiff often rings up friends and colleagues on his landline — earning him the moniker the "Cold-Call Pope."
19. He's a good cook. According to Angel Rossi, a Jesuit priest from Buenos Aires, he makes a "fantastic paella." He has also taught the chefs at the Vatican how to prepare his favorite dessert, dulce de leche.
20. He nods off during prayer. The pope has admitted to sometimes falling asleep mid prayer, but says "it is good to fall asleep in God's presence."
21. He's a Lord of the Rings fan, and once referenced J.R.R. Tolkien in a 2008 sermon.
22. He's a movie lover. His favorite is 1954's La Strada, directed by Federico Fellini.
23. He felt called to the priesthood at 17, though he didn't enter a seminary until age 21.
24. He speaks seven languages. He's fluent in Italian, German, and Spanish, and also knows some English, French, Portuguese, and Piedmontese. "The one language that always caused me big problems was English, especially its pronunciation," he has said, "because I am very tone-deaf."
25. He keeps a letter from his grandmother Rosa tucked in his breviary. It reads: "May my grandchildren…have a long and happy life. But if on some painful day, sickness or the loss of a loved one fills you with grief, remember that a sigh before the Tabernacle, where the greatest and most august martyr resides, and a gaze at Mary at the foot of the Cross, can make a drop of balm fall on the deepest and most painful wounds."
Us Weekly’s Commemorative Special Edition, Pope Francis: His Journey to America — featuring full-color photos, an inside look at the Vatican, and a history of popes in America — is on newsstands now.
Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!