Sunday marked three years since Francis was elected pope

US Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Pope Francis on the third anniversary of the Holy Father’s election as pope.

In a statement, the US secretary of state offered his best wishes to the Pontiff on behalf of President Obama, the Department of State and “the people of the United States” to mark Sunday’s anniversary.

Kerry said the United States was grateful for the role the Pope had played in helping to renew America’s “diplomatic ties” with Cuba and in peace negotiations in Colombia between the government and FARC rebels.

He also said he had been “inspired and moved” by Francis’s papal visit to America in 2015.

“I was honoured to join in welcoming the Holy Father on his first papal visit to our country, and, like millions of other Americans, I was inspired and moved by his powerful words at events in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, including his memorable address to the United States Congress,” he said.

“I believe that Americans — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — share His Holiness’ conviction that we must do all we can to protect the environmental health of our planet, to uphold the common good, to promote religious freedom, to care for refugees and others who are disadvantaged, and to strive for justice and peace.”

The statement added: “On this special day, I join men and women across the globe in congratulating the Holy Father and in wishing (Francis) continued success in leading the Catholic Church and appealing to the better angels within us all.”

Meanwhile, Francis marked his third anniversary by giving away 40,000 copies of the Gospel of St Luke.

Nuns, who work in the Vatican’s paediatric clinic, and grandparents gave out the gospels to pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square for Francis’s Sunday blessing.