On Peter's Day, Itinerary Eve
Lest anyone forgot the enduring foundation this feast commemorates, let's return again to the opening page of its latest chapter....
Even if the ancient observance is always big enough on its own, the significance of this year's Petermas is ever more heightened in the Stateside church thanks to what's coming next – early tomorrow, if not at Roman Noon then slightly thereafter, the full schedule for Francis' intensely-awaited first trip to the US (22-27 September) is slated to be released.
Its most significant pieces already announced in drips over recent months, Jorge Bergoglio's first-ever visit to these shores – stopping in Washington, New York and Philadelphia – will be headlined by the first-ever papal address to a joint meeting of Congress and Canonization Mass on US soil, a massive South Lawn welcome at the White House and meeting with the US bishops in the capital's St Matthew's Cathedral, the traditional speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York followed by a Mass for the nation's clergy and religious in Madison Square Garden, all before culminating with the biggest open-air PopeEvent the country's seen since before 9/11: the mega-Mass on Philly's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on the trek's closing Sunday, with realistic crowd-estimates in the range of a million.
All that said, much as every PopeTrip is eagerly anticipated, to say the expectation over this one is greater than most is a decided understatement... and when it comes to the "why" behind the mood, no explanation can beat the poetic tribute offered by Francis' first domestic host – his Stateside Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò – on the first anniversary of Papa Bergoglio's election as 266th Bishop of Rome: