"Peter Among Us": PopeTrip '08 Confirmed
Top story: in a surprise move, the nuncio to Washington Archbishop Pietro Sambi began his traditional remarks to the meeting with a detailed confirmation of Pope Benedict's visit to the United Nations, New York and Washington in the early spring.
Encompassing both the pontiff's 81st birthday and third anniversary of his election to the papacy, the trip's now-officially announced 15-20 April dates and its key elements had been laid out on these pages beginning in mid-September.
To brief, an official reception at the White House, meeting with the US bishops, Mass at Nationals Stadium and visit to the Catholic University of America make up Benedict's Washington leg. Then, after his UN address and an ecumenical/interreligious encounter on 18 April, the Pope will say a Mass for priests and religious the following morning in St Patrick's Cathedral, attend a youth gathering on the grounds of St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie; make a Sunday morning visit to Ground Zero and celebrate a closing liturgy at Yankee Stadium, all in New York.
"The Pope will not travel much," his representative to the States said. But even so, Benedict "will address himself to the people of the United States and the whole Catholic church."
While the trip has been an open secret for months, the surprise of the announcement was due to its timing and format; Vatican protocol usually dictates that papal travel is announced in Rome, two to three months before a visit's planned date.
Benedict's first American host, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, will helm a lunchtime press conference to discuss the plans. Cardinal Edward Egan of New York is absent from the meeting, recuperating from an emergency dental procedure performed over the weekend.
SVILUPPO (12.55pm): In his press conference remarks, Wuerl expressed his hope that the visit would bring about a "renewal in the faith life of the church" in the States.
Terming Benedict's visit a "call to lift up the whole country," the DC prelate said he thought the capital had been picked to represent "the entire church in the United States."
Others lobbied as well, and a reporter asked how Wuerl succeeded.
His response: "The power of prayer."
Greeted by a horde of cameras at the presser -- and clearly elated to have the public announcement in hand -- today marks the archbishop's 67th birthday.