Pope will visit as ‘pastor,’ not ‘politician,’ says Washington cardinal

By Richard Szczepanowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis will make history during his visit to Washington in September, when he becomes the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress and he says the first canonization Mass to be celebrated in the United States.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl outlined details of the pope’s Sept. 22-24 visit to the nation’s capital at a news conference at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington June 30, after the Vatican published the detailed schedule of Pope Francis’ Sept. 19-22 visit to Cuba and his Sept. 22-27 visit to the United States.

St. Matthew Cathedral also is on the pope’s U.S. itinerary, as is a visit to an outreach program operated by Catholic Charities, where he will meet clients served by the agency.

"The Holy Father is visiting our home, he is coming to visit us," Cardinal Wuerl said, adding that the pope will be visiting "not as a politician, but as a pastor."

It is the first leg on his first U.S. trip, which also includes stops in New York City and Philadelphia.

Pope Francis will arrive Sept. 22 on a flight from Cuba to Andrews Field at Joint Base Andrews just outside of Washington. There will be no public events that day.

On Sept. 23, Pope Francis will begin his day with a welcoming ceremony at the White House followed by a private meeting with President Barack Obama. He also will have midday prayer with the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew Cathedral.

After departing the cathedral, Pope Francis will offer Mass that afternoon outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the university mall at The Catholic University of America. During the Mass, the pope will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Spanish Franciscan missionary who established mission churches along the coast of California.

Representatives of the Catholic Church in California, the leadership of religious communities and representatives of Hispanic Catholics across the country will be invited to the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl said. The congregation also will include many students from Catholic University. The cardinal noted that the majority of the tickets for the liturgy will then be made available to local Catholics through their parishes.

Jumbotron screens will be set up around the campus.

Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress the morning of Sept. 24, becoming the first pontiff in history to do so.

Afterward, he will visit St. Patrick Church in Washington and will meet with clients of Catholic Charities, Then he will offer a blessing and remarks to those gathered for lunch at the St. Maria Meals Program outside the agency’s headquarters.

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