U.S. Anticipates Papal Mission
Looking ahead to Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the United States.
“The mood is ecstatic,” said Vincentian Father David O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America. “The students are so thrilled and excited just to be able to see him and express their love for him.”
Father O’Connell was looking ahead to Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the United States, scheduled for April 15-20, 2008. Part of his visit will include an April 17 keynote address at CUA, one of several appearances the Pope is scheduled to make on his short and intense trip to the country.
The Holy Father’s engagements will begin at the White House on the morning of April 16, where he will meet and lunch with President Bush and the first lady.
In the evening, he will greet U.S. bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Both engagements will fall on the same day as Benedict’s 81st birthday.
The next morning, the Pope is scheduled to celebrate the first of two open-air Masses during the visit, at the Washington Nationals’ new baseball stadium. The papal Mass will be its first non-baseball event.
Forty-five thousand people are expected at the Mass. “We’re already being inundated with requests for tickets,” said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Washington archdiocese. “They’re not available yet, but will be distributed in parishes and through other organizations.”
On the afternoon of April 17, the Holy Father will travel to CUA to address the presidents of U.S. Catholic universities and colleges and diocesan education leaders.
“His address is likely to be connected with Catholic education in the United States at all levels,” said Father O’Connell, who has made April 17 a holiday at The Catholic University of America. “Our hope is that he will give all those involved in Catholic education a very encouraging and supportive address to continue their mission.”
Benedict will likely discuss themes presented in Ex Corde Ecclesiae (On Catholic Universities), Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution for Catholic institutions of higher education.
“Whenever there is a papal visit, the Vatican requests suggestions concerning some areas of discussion to include in his speeches,” said Father O’Connell. “This will be a major address and so I am sure Ex Corde Ecclesiae will be presented in some fashion.”
The Pope’s trip to Washington will close with a visit to Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, where he will meet representatives of other religions.
The following morning, Benedict will fly to New York and address the U.N. General Assembly. Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register that he is likely to follow in the footsteps of Paul VI and John Paul II, the only previous popes to address the organization, and deliver “a message of peace to humanity.” The Pope will then meet ecumenical leaders at a New York parish.
On April 19, the third anniversary of his election as Pope, the Holy Father will celebrate a Mass for priests, deacons and members of religious orders at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and later meet with young Catholics at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.
On April 20, Benedict will visit Ground Zero, where he is expected to express his solidarity with the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and all those who yearn for an end to violence. His last engagement will be his second open-air Mass, at Yankee Stadium.
The U.S. visit stems from an invitation issued to the Pope earlier this year from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. According to Father Lombardi, the timing of the trip depended on the appropriate time to give an address to the organization.
“For such a visit, there are two suitable periods in the year in connection with U.N. sessions, in the spring and in the fall,” Father Lombardi said. “In the fall, there were perhaps other concomitant engagements, for example the Synod of Bishops [Oct. 5-26, 2008], so the Pope preferred the spring.”
Washington, where many Catholic organizations are based, was added to the itinerary after an invitation from Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
Father Lombardi stressed that a papal visit to the U.S. is always of great significance.
“The United States is a great country and the Catholic Church in the U.S. is a great Church,” Father Lombardi said. “They certainly merit the attention and encouragement of the Pope as their universal pastor, and in their role in the world of today and of tomorrow.”
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.
- December 9-15, 2007