The papal visit is so close now, I can taste it. This issue of the Register is dated to coincide with the week of the Pope’s arrival. In it we provide information about the Holy Father, his background and the aims of his visit. We also supply maps, schedules and pertinent information for those who plan to see the Pope — or for those who wish to deepen their experience of Benedict’s visit.

It will also be a good backgrounder for the staff of the Register who will soon be covering the actual visit.

Having covered World Youth Day in Toronto and in Cologne I know what to expect. I also know to expect the unexpected.

It will certainly be exciting, and it will be daunting. The sheer logistics of trying to get to an event, take it in, interview people and get back to write a story on it, are rather daunting. In addition to the euphoria that accompanies such an event, there are the logistical nightmares of trying to get to a location at a given time, contending with the mass of people, the traffic and actually filing a story.

In Cologne, Germany, for World Youth Day 2005, neither my lap top, power cable, razor nor clothing arrived in Cologne until a couple of days into my visit.

In Toronto, for World Youth Day 2003, I remember during one papal event being corralled like horses into a gated area to watch a papal event.

Given all of the security precautions being taken, and all the screenings, I expect that covering the U.S. visit will be much the same. We may be prevented from bringing our laptops into venues. None of us will truly get close to the Holy Father. We will come early for events hours in the future, and wait.

But then the Pope will arrive and everything will change.

Seeing the Pope always reminds me of Acts 5:15, when they lined the streets “so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.”

Benedict is Peter, after all, the keeper of the keys. It’s a tremendous privilege to be able to have a front row seat, not just at history but at eternity.

Tim Drake will report from New York City

and Washington, D.C. April 15-21. is a Register website.