The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, landed at Andrews AFB at about 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon and was greeted by the President and First Lady. The event marks the first time a U.S. President has left the White House to meet a visiting head of state upon arrival. The Vatican is the smallest nation-state and the Pope's visit is an "official" state visit.
This morning the Pope will celebrate his 81st birthday with a visit to the White House and a meeting with President Bush and others. This evening, the President is hosting a formal White House dinner in honor of the Pope's visit, however, the Holy Father will not be in attendance as he will be meeting with U.S. bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
This afternoon, Mike Byrne and I depart about 1 p.m. for D.C.. Thursday morning, Mike, a Catholic Deacon, will participate in the mass officiated by Pope Benedict at Washington Nationals Stadium. Thursday afternoon, the Holy Father meets with educators and students at The Catholic University of America and then inter-religious leaders at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.
Friday, after a quick tour of the U.S. Capitol, we depart for New York. Friday morning the pope speaks at the United Nations and in the afternoon meets with ecumenical Christian leaders. Friday evening, Mike's father Tom, a New Yorker, is treating us to his favorite Italian restaurant.
Saturday morning, Pope Benedict celebrates mass for Catholic religious at St. Patrick's Cathedral then travels via popemobile across the city. We'll take in a Broadway matinee Saturday afternoon -- hey, we're in New York -- it's the law.
Sunday morning, the Holy Father visits Ground Zero and offers prayers for those lost. In the afternoon, Mike and I attend mass at Yankee Stadium where the pope will celebrate the 200th anniversary of several U.S. diocese including Baltimore, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Louisville.
Tidbit: I always thought the introduction for the Stones was impressive, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the World's Greatest Rock-n-Roll Band, the Rolling Stones!" That intro pales to the official title of the pope. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor to the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the City of the Vatican, Servant of the Servants of God, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. As the photo caption above says, "rock on, papist dudes!"