Pope to visit cap­i­tal on first trip to U.S.

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ju­lia Duin

BAL­TI­MORE — Pope Bene­dict XVI is com­ing to Wash­ing­ton and New York in mid-April to meet with Pres­i­dent Bush, ad­dress the United Na­tions and visit ground zero.

The pope will pro­vide the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ new ball­park with a bap­tism of sorts with an open-air Mass only days af­ter its of­fi­cial open­ing.

Al­though a pa­pal ad­vance team had been in the coun­try map­ping out sce­nar­ios for the trip, Nov. 12 was the first time that the na­tion’s Catholic bishops learned which cities the pon­tiff will visit.

Arch­bishop Pi­etro Sambi, the apos­tolic nun­cio, an­nounced the de­tails of the April 15-20 trip at the an­nual busi­ness meet­ing of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at the Wa­ter­front Mar­riott in Bal­ti­more.

“The pope won’t travel much,” Arch­bishop Sambi said. “But he will ad­dress all the peo­ple of the United States and the whole Catholic Church.”

Al­though Bene­dict’s pre­de­ces­sor, Pope John Paul II, vis­ited sev­eral cities at a time dur­ing his trips to Amer­ica, Bene­dict’s age and lower en­ergy lev­els lim­ited his itin­er­ary, USCCB Pres­i­dent William Skyl­stad told re­porters.

Wash­ing­ton Arch­bishop Don­ald W. Wuerl was ju­bi­lant at be­ing one of only two prelates, along with New York Car­di­nal Ed­ward M. Egan, cho­sen to host the pon­tiff. Sev­eral bishops had sent in­vi­ta­tions.

“We prayed and prayed,” he said at a press con­fer­ence. “When we heard he was in­vited to the United Na­tions — re­mem­ber he was in­vited there by the sec­re­tary-gen­eral — we thought it ap­pro­pri­ate to in­vite him to Wash­ing­ton.

“That he would come to Wash­ing­ton says to me that he sees this as a see rep­re­sent­ing the en­tire United States,” he added.

Arch­bishop Sambi said the pope will ar­rive in Wash­ing­ton the af­ter­noon of April 15, a Tues­day. Where he will stay was not an­nounced, but other popes have stayed at the pa­pal nun­cio’s res­i­dence on Mas­sachusetts Av­enue North­west.

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, the pope’s 81st birth­day, Bene­dict will meet with Pres­i­dent Bush at the White House. That af­ter­noon, he will ad­dress all the U.S. bishops at the Basil­ica of the Na­tional Shrine of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion.

“Pres­i­dent and Mrs. Bush are hon­ored to wel­come His Ho­li­ness to the White House next April,” pres­i­den­tial spokesman Gor­don John­droe said. Mr. Bush has met Pope Bene­dict once be­fore, in a June as par t of a broader trip to Europe for the Group of Eight sum­mit in Ger­many.

Pope Bene­dict’s only pub­lic ap­pear­ance in Wash­ing­ton will be a Mass on the morn­ing of April 17 at the 41,222-seat Na­tion­als’ sta- dium in South­west. It will be the first non-ath­letic event at the venue, which will have been open barely a week.

“I ex­pect there’ll be more peo­ple who want to see the pope than there are seats at the sta­dium,” Arch­bishop Wuerl said.

That af­ter­noon, he will meet with Catholic univer­sity pres­i­dents and dioce­san ed­u­ca­tion direc­tors on the grounds of Catholic Univer­sity of Amer­ica. Af­ter that, he will at­tend an in­ter­faith gath­er­ing at the nearby John Paul II Cul­tural Cen­ter.

Early on April 18, he will fly to New York and will ad­dress the United Na­tions that same morn­ing. He will at­tend a sec­ond ec­u­meni­cal meet­ing at an un­spec­i­fied New York parish that Fri­day af­ter­noon. On April 19, the third an­niver­sary of his elec­tion as pope, he will spend the morn­ing cel­e­brat­ing a morn­ing Mass with priests, dea­cons and mem­bers of re­li­gious or­ders at St. Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral in Man­hat­tan. That af­ter noon, he will meet with Catholic youth at St. Joseph Sem­i­nary in Yonkers, N.Y.

He will spend the next morn­ing, a Sun­day, visit­ing ground zero in Man­hat­tan. That af­ter­noon, he will cel­e­brate Mass at Yan­kee Sta­dium be­fore fly­ing back to Rome.

“We make of this meet­ing a new use­ful­ness, a new spring, a new Pen­te­cost,” Arch­bishop Sambi said. “The Holy Spirit is ready. The an­swer de­pends on us.”

In other busi­ness, the bishops dis­cussed a pro­posed “Call for Bi­par­ti­san Co­op­er­a­tion on Re­spon­si­ble Tran­si­tion in Iraq,” which echoes Pope Bene­dict’s op­po­si­tion to the war in Iraq. Bishop Thomas Wen­ski of Or­lando, Fla., said he con­sulted with sev­eral mem­bers of Congress be­fore sub­mit­ting it.

“We are alarmed by the po­lit­i­cal and par­ti­san stale­mate in Wash­ing­ton,” the doc­u­ment says in part. “Some pol­icy-mak­ers seem to fail to rec­og­nize suf­fi­ciently the re­al­ity and fail­ures in Iraq and the im­per­a­tive for new di­rec­tions. Oth­ers seem to fail to rec­og­nize suf­fi­ciently the po­ten­tial hu­man con­se­quences of very rapid with­drawal.”

Var­i­ous bishops asked for sev­eral ad­di­tions to the doc­u­ment, rang­ing from a “day of prayer and pen­i­tence” to men­tion of the suf­fer­ing Chaldean Catholics in Iraq and Is­lamic rad­i­cal­ism.

“Our state­ments tend to fo­cus on Amer­i­can ac­tion and Amer­i­can re­straint, yet I don’t know if we’re tak­ing into ac­count Is­lamic ji­hadism,” said Chicago Aux­il­iary Bishop Thomas Paprocki. “I’d like our state­ments to re­flect a lit­tle more that re­al­ity.”

Arch­bishop Joseph Nau­mann of Kansas City, Kan., asked for a men­tion of the “hero­ism” of Amer­i­can troops.

“Whether we agree with this ven­ture or note, we need to say some­thing,” he said.

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