The altar at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is seen through an entrance door on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A Catholic stole is seen following a mass at Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Pope Francis has made one groundbreaking move after another in his two-year papacy to retain and welcome more people into the Catholic Church. The announcements include the promise to remove the required second judgment on annulment decisions during a divorce, unique acts of service that include kissing the feet of female inmates — the first pope to do so, creating a commission to investigate sexual abuse by clergy, and softening ties between the Vatican and nuns by ending a 2012 takeover of the nun’s group Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Ahead of the pope’s visit to Washington, D.C., Washington Post photographer Matt McClain visited several shrines, basilicas and cathedrals in the area to document symbols and icons that uniquely identify and distinguish the Catholic Church from other churches.

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Ajani Gibson carries incense during a procession at the beginning of a mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A crucifix is seen at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A woman holds a rosary at the Crypt Church within the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, in Washington, D,C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Father Ismael Ayala prepares for a morning mass in the sacristy at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A mosaic tile version of a portion of the famous painting, “Assumption of the Virgin” by Titian is seen at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Sacramental bread for the Eucharist is seen prior to a morning mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The bread is also referred to as the body of Christ or the host. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Baptism oil is seen at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Holy water is seen at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Deacon Ira Chase Sr. holds the Gospel Book during a procession at the beginning of a morning mass at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

People kneel as they attend a morning mass at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Father Jim Gardiner, SA waits for people in a confessional at Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A relic of Saint Peter the Apostle is seen in the sacristy at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

More In Sight:

Altar call: Babes, blessings, and baptisms at Cuba’s Our Lady of Charity church

17 beautiful photos of Holy Week around the world

Part II: A Cuban love affair continued