Anticipating what the pope might say

The Washington Post last week had a Page 1 story headlined “Catholic College Leaders Expect Pope to Deliver Stern Message.” And while no less an authority than the GetReligion blog called it “a pretty solid report,” it also warned how, as the trip gets closer, reporters may ignore the main purposes of such a pastoral visit (i.e., Jesus, the Eucharist, holiness) to report what they feel are the “real” (i.e., “anything that can be seen as affecting politics and, thus, real life”) issues.

It didn’t take long for questions like those to be raised about the Post story (which also is appearing in papers that subscribe to the Post’s news service). The president of The Catholic University of America, Vincentian Father David M. O’Connell, wrote a letter published today taking the story to task for stirring up a controversy to make headlines:

The suggestion that the pope is coming to the United States with a hammer for Catholic educational leaders is not only premature but also prejudicial. Instead of condemning Catholic universities and colleges for what may be perceived as failures — and failures do exist — the pope might very well thank Catholic educational institutions for being beacons of light in a society that sometimes prefers darkness.

Predicting what this pope might say or do is always a tricky business. His first encyclical, after all, wasn’t about church doctrine or wayward Catholics but about love as a gift from God. Perhaps the Post headline would have been more accurate if it had not speculated on what Catholic college leaders expect the pope to say but simply reported on what some in the church want him to say.

Catching a glimpse of the pope in U.S.

Pope Benedict XVI waves from his popemobile after celebrating Mass in northern Italy last year. (CNS/Daniele Colarieti, Catholic Press Photo)Today’s announcement of the Vatican’s official program for next month’s U.S. papal trip includes information on where you might be able to catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI in the popemobile if you don’t have tickets for a papal event:

 — The first use of the popemobile on this trip will be when the pope leaves the White House at noon April 16 en route to the apostolic nunciature, a distance of about three miles. A major traffic nightmare is certainly a possibility since the White House is smack in the middle of downtown. The precise route was not announced.

– Later that same day, according to the schedule, he’ll arrive at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the popemobile for his meeting with the U.S. bishops. Again, no precise route was given.

– The next afternoon, after he meets with Catholic education officials at The Catholic University of America in Washington,  he’ll use the popemobile to go to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center for his meeting with representatives of non-Christian religions. That trip will be fairly short, since the university and the JPII center are more or less across the street from one another.

– The lone New York popemobile trip will be on Saturday, April 19, after a noon lunch with Cardinal Edward Egan. That trip from the cardinal’s residence to the residence of the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations is about a mile.

Happy observance of St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Patrick Church in Smithtown, N.Y. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)I’m wearing my green tie today even though, liturgically, today is not St. Patrick’s Day because of Holy Week. But that doesn’t mean that we have to go as far as the Canadian blogger who suggested over the weekend that we had to send back the green beer since the Irish bishops had the liturgical celebration moved to last Saturday. That didn’t happen here in the States because the Vatican already had decided to move the feast of St. Joseph to that day for everyone else.

But fear not: the next time St. Patrick’s Day will be liturgically homeless because of Holy Week will be in 2160 (scroll down to the final paragraph of this story), and I doubt any of us will still be alive 152 years from now to worry about it.

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