The Pope is coming! Today, Tuesday September 22nd, Pope Francis will arrive in the United States for his first visit to our country. This will be the first time a Pope has visited the United States since Pope Benedict visited in 2009. Here are some things that would be helpful to know prior to his visit.
First, the reason for the Pope’s visit is the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which is an international gathering of families for prayer and catechesis on the family and the various forces that shape it. Pope Francis was invited by Archbishop Chaput to participate in the World Meeting of Families and will offer a public Mass on Sunday, September 27th on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.
While the World Meeting of Families provided an opportunity for Pope Francis to come to the United States, Philadelphia will not be the only US city he will visit. His first stop will be Washington DC where he will meet with President Obama in the morning. He will then meet for prayer with the Bishops of the United States. In the Evening he will celebrate the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra at the National Shrine. Finally, Thursday morning the Pope will address a joint session of congress (!).
After departing from Washington DC, the Pope will travel to New York. This visit will be very brief. It will be highlighted by a visit to the United Nations, a prayer service at the September 11th memorial, and a motorcade through central park where thousands are expected to gather to see the Pope drive by. He will then depart for Philadelphia to take part in a couple of events for the World Meeting of Families.
I hope that you will make an attempt to follow the Pope’s visit. When possible, try to watch the events live, and without a lot of commentary so you can listen to the Pope directly. As always, be cautious about which media outlet you choose to follow the events. I expect this visit to be very politicized, especially with an election year not far off on the horizon. I suggest seeking out a Catholic news agency such as, well, Catholic News Agency. Our own Archdiocesan publication, Northwest Catholic should also have some good info.
As far as secular press, I really do not know who will give the most balanced coverage. Recently, NBC has had wonderful coverage of Catholic events but their best commentator, Fr. Robert Barron, has recently been ordained as a bishop and I’m not sure if he will continue to contribute. As for the events themselves, I would expect the big speeches to be shown by all the networks. If they are not, however, you might try EWTN (check with your cable or dish network for the channel).
Finally, please pray for the Pope as he makes this visit and pray for the Church in the United States. This is a great opportunity for people to renew their interest in our faith. Pray that his message is heard clearly by all men and women, and pray for his hard work to bear fruit in our nation and in our world.