About that papal visit

Sometime over the next two days, Pope Benedict will receive a dossier with the proposed program for his visit to the United Nations and the United States next April.

Much has been circulated about the papal visit in recent weeks, including detailed plans about liturgies in New York and Washington, encounters with New York seminarians and U.S. bishops, and of course the pope’s expected address to the U.N. General Assembly. But all those plans are tentative at this point — and it bothers the Vatican that they’ve prematurely made their way into blogs and news reports.

The pope’s advance team was on the East Coast last week putting together a definitive program for a trip that focuses on two stops, Washington and New York. But even this “final” program is not final, because the pope hasn’t sat down and reviewed it yet. The ultimate decisions are indeed up to him, and it’s quite possible that the pope could change things, either tweaking the schedule or deciding to add a city.

Typically, papal trip planning goes through several drafts. The host country usually announces the main events a few months ahead of time, and the Vatican doesn’t release the pope’s official schedule until about six weeks before the trip. But in this case, media interest and logistical demands may move all that up. With no other papal travel on the horizon, excitement is already building for B16’s first UN/US encounter — even if it’s nearly six months away.

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