Ever since the pope’s trip to the US was announced in November 2014, speculation and guessing began as to where he would be visiting during his time here. While it was made known that his intention was to be present at some portion of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the rest was more or less up in the air to the day to day Catholics not involved in the planning process. Now that the visit is less than a week away though, the agenda is set, tickets have been distributed, and final preparations are taking place across the three cities on the east coast where he will be stopping. There is a caveat though… as we have seen many times over the last two-plus years, this pope, Pope Francis, has continually shown a propensity for going off the script and beaten path more so than his security detail would want… with Pope Francis, you never know.
Tuesday, Sept. 22
- Arrival to the United States
- The Pope’s flight from Havana, Cuba will land at Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington, DC where he will set foot on American soil for the first time in his life. He will be greeted by cheering crowds as well as Church and political dignitaries.
Wednesday, Sept. 23
- Official State Welcome
- President Obama will officially welcome Pope Francis to the United States with a special ceremony reserved only for other heads of state. After the ceremony is complete, he will make a short trip around the National Mall giving thousands the chance to catch a glimpse of him.
- Midday Prayer with the US Bishops
- Popes have a special connection to their brother bishops throughout the world. While in DC, all of the US Bishops will gather in St. Matthew’s Cathedral to pray and speak with the pope. St. Matthew's was where the funeral of President Kennedy was held in 1963.
- Canonization Mass for Blessed Junipero Serra
- For the first time in Church history, a canonization Mass will take place in the United States. Blessed Junipero Serra was a missionary priest in the 1800s in the western US. He helped to establish parishes and a Catholic presence through California and more. The Mass will take place outside of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of The Catholic University of America. The Shrine is America’s Catholic Church and the University the Bishop’s University will have been visited by a pope three times after Francis’ stop there. Pope St. John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and now Pope Francis in 2015 which makes CUA the only university in the US to host three papal visits.
- Overnight Accommodations
- While staying in Washington, DC, Pope Francis will stay in the Vatican Embassy residence on Massachusetts Avenue, alongside several other foreign embassies.
Thursday, Sept. 24
- Address to the US Congress
- There are very few times when Congress gathers together both House and Senate for a Joint Session. Pope Francis, through an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner, will address the elected representatives outside the US Capitol building. After this,
- Visit to St. Patrick's Parish- Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington
- Pope Francis has voiced his concern for the poor and the marginalized of society since day one of his pontificate. Putting those words into action, he will make a stop at one particular parish in DC where the poor are cared for in a special way.
- Arrival to New York and Evening Prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- What first-time American tourist would not stop in New York City? The second stop on the pope’s trip begins when he lands at JFK Airport. He will then travel to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Evening Prayer. The cathedral has been undergoing significant renovations over the past three years. It included cleaning up the outside marble surfaces, repairing the stained glass windows, and more. Scaffolding, yellow tape, and signs have been everywhere throughout the cathedral to mark off construction spots, but none of that will be there when the Holy Father arrives next week.
- Overnight Accommodations
- While staying in New York, Pope Francis will stay in the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations. Close to Central Park, the home was once the residence of a prior mayor of New York City.
Friday, Sept. 25
- Address to the United Nations General Assembly
- He will then go to address the United Nations General Assembly a place where all of the popes who have visited the US have made stops to before. He will undoubtably will call for peace among the nations and a common care for the poor among other topics.
- Multi-Religious Prayer Service at Sept. 11 Memorial
- In 2008 when Pope Benedict visited the US, he made a stop to pray at Ground Zero. Pope Francis will make the same stop this year. The visit here is very symbolic in that a man who stands for peace and forgiveness will be praying at the very site which witnessed such violence and sadness. As we know too well, the victims of that day were not just Catholics or just any other faith, they people from all walks of life. As such, it is beautiful to see people of all faiths coming together to pray at this sacred place.
- Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem and Procession Through Central Park
- Pope Francis’ connection with the poor and with immigrant families leads him to visit this Catholic elementary school in East Harlem. Like so many Catholic schools in the US, school closings and mergings are necessary due to rising costs and declining numbers. Our Lady Queen of Angels school was formed when several others closed in the area. It has become the home to so many children whose families have come to the United States seeking better lives. After the school visit, he will make his way through a packed Central Park which gives the faithful of New York and chance to see him much like the ride through the National Mall.
- Mass at Madison Square Garden
- Visiting pontiffs and sporting venues have been connected in this country ever since Pope Paul VI’s Mass at Yankee Stadium in 1965. 20,000-plus people will pack MSG for an evening Mass with Pope Francis. If you are not going to be one of them, you can join us for Fellowship with Francis to watch the Mass at Good Shepherd in our Parish Hall.
Saturday, Sept. 26
- Arrival in Philadelphia and Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
- It’s worth noting that while Pope Francis may not be on the ground in New Jersey at all during his trip, our state will be geographically in the center of it all. The majority of flight time from DC to New York and then from New York to Philadelphia will take him over New Jersey airspace so the Holy Father will get a bird’s eye view of the Garden State. He will celebrate Mass at Philly’s home Church, the place with St. John Neumann and St. Katherine Drexel went to Mass.
- Visit to Independence Hall and to the Festival of Families
- As Catholic Americans, it is pretty cool to see the leader of our faith visit the spot where our Founding Fathers began a nation. It is significant because true democracy does not suppress the weak, it gives everyone a chance to be heard, and it supports the dignity of the human life. Sound familiar? Catholicism and Democracy are really so close in their roots. After this stop, he will swing by the on-going Festival of Families where he will speak and take part in the events there.
Sunday, Sept. 27
- Meeting with Bishops and Visit to Correctional Facility
- While staying in Philadelphia, Pope Francis will rest his head at the St. Charles Borromeo seminary. On Sunday morning, he will meet with bishops to discuss matters effecting the Church in the US. After this, he will visit a local prison and meet with individuals who are living there. We have seen him visit places like this before- most notably celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in prisons near the Vatican.
- Mass to Close the World Meeting of Families
- The final stop on Francis’ stateside trip will be to the World Meeting of Families where he will celebrate an enormous open air Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to close the event. Francis has stressed in his homilies and his other comments, that the family is essential to life, and the message will be no different there.
This is a packed work week for the Holy Father! While he will be speaking English for some of the events, it is said that he feels most comfortable speaking Spanish, his native tongue. So much of what he says will be translated.
Here’s a brief wrap up for you:
Six Days in the US
Three Major US Cities
Four Mass Celebrations
Two Major Popemobile Rides
Visits with Students, Inmates, Families, Bishops, Politicians, and More
Not bad for someone’s first ever visit to the United States. As mentioned before though, what may be most anticipated is to see how he goes ‘off the script’ as he has been known to do. Those moments may prove to be the most memorable ones. It is not often we get to see and hear the Holy Father on our own turf among the places that we see everyday. Throughout the week, please take time to watch, read, and listen to the coverage of his visit. Most importantly, though pray that his visit may inspire our country to live more like Jesus would want us to and that the Holy Father’s message of peace, charity, and love are received by all!