Pope Likely to Visit District; Trip to Feature Speech to U.N

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 19, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Pope Likely to Visit District; Trip to Feature Speech to U.N


Byline: John Phillips, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit Washington early next year during an apostolic journey to the United States that will feature a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Vatican sources say.

The Vatican formally has offered no details of the trip other than confirming that Benedict plans to speak at the United Nations in April.

But various reports, sparked by a report from the Catholic News Agency, which is closely linked to the U.S. Bishops Conference, suggested an April 15 to 20 itinerary with stops in Boston and possibly Baltimore, as well as New York and Washington.

The Catholic News Agency said the pope will begin his tour in Washington, stop in New York for a Mass in Central Park and a moment of reflection at ground zero and conclude in Boston.

Some reports - such as one in Whispers in the Loggia, a popular Catholic blog - said Benedict will visit Boston on April 20, the day before the Boston Marathon, partly to heal the wounds of the priestly sexual-abuse scandal there.

The scandal forced the resignation of Archbishop Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who subsequently was effectively exiled to a largely ceremonial post at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.

A number of dioceses have invited the pope since the Vatican disclosed he will address the United Nations at the invitation of the worldwide body's Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "There have been so many cities mentioned as possible stops on the trip that he cannot possibly visit them all," said one Vatican source.

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said she heard speculation in published reports and blogs that Pope Benedict might visit several U.S. cities, including Washington. But as exciting as a papal visit to nation's capital would be, "that's not confirmed," she said.

Similarly, Boston Archdiocese spokesman Terence C. Donilon said that talk about a visit to the archdiocese "is just speculation."

However the Vatican source, who asked not to be identified, said Washington is "the most likely" city for the 80-year-old leader of the world's Roman Catholics to visit during his U.S. sojourn.

The last papal visit to the Washington region came in 1995, when Pope John Paul II celebrated a morning Mass with more than 50,000 enthusiastic worshippers at Baltimore's Camden Yards.

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