In little more than 72 hours, I’ll be fastening my seatbelt, winging my way toward Philadelphia to cover the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit. Sitting beside me will be the intrepid Gina Keating, a longtime Catholic Sun contributor.
We’ve been feverishly prepping for this trip for weeks now and it looks like we are all set for the big adventure. We hope to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his first-ever visit to the U.S. Gina and I will be among some 2 million faithful who pack into the Eakins Oval in the heart of Philadelphia for a 4 p.m. Mass. That’s after following him at the canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra in Washington, D.C. and covering the World Meeting of Families.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, the CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation who has worked closely with the Vatican, briefed Catholic journalists last week about what to expect of the papal visit. Fr. Rosica told us to keep in mind that the visit of Pope Francis comes on the heel of his trip to Cuba. He said it was “highly significant that he is choosing to enter the U.S. through Cuba. That was not an add-on; it was a strategy.”
He also said we should look at the entire visit in the context of Scripture and the Gospel of Joy. The Holy Father is a pastor who is talking with his people, Fr. Rosica said. We should avoid political designations and instead see the pope as “coming as a pastor to teach, preach and strengthen his brothers and to encounter his people.”
We should pay attention when he sets down his prepared text, since the pope doesn’t always stick to his script. And, as we’ve come to learn, he likes to chat with journalists who travel with him on what has affectionately come to be known as “Shepherd One.” The Holy Father doesn’t own a jet, though. That’s the just the name they give whatever plane he happens to be traveling on.
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Pope Francis, who was born and raised in Argentina, will offer Mass and many of his remarks in Spanish. Fr. Rosica said that this is consistent with the U.S. “being a bilingual nation like Canada.”
Fr. Rosica told us that the Popemobile has arrived in the U.S. and will be used in his appearance at Central Park. The pope will meet with the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington and later with bishops who are attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
When he’s speaking, Fr. Rosica told journalists, “Watch his facial gestures. His face is like a book … the goodness in this man brings forth goodness in humanity.”
Let’s hope so. There are going to be enormous crowds at all of the appearances. Fr. Rosica told us not to worry, that “people want to see this man. Those who are not with the Church want to be in his presence.”
The high in Washington on the day of the canonization will be 82 degrees, along with a sweaty 73 percent humidity. It’s expected to rain while the pope is in Philadelphia, so we’re packing umbrellas, too. For two Catholic journalist moms who are longtime residents of Phoenix, we’re willing to face whatever weather the East Coast can throw at us. I have a feeling it’s going to be a spectacular experience. Please do keep us in your prayers and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.