The nightmares of preparing for a papal visit

The next time a journalist tells you that preparing for a papal trip is a nightmare, you might want to take it as a literal statement.

From applying for media credentials to planning preview stories, assigning coverage to purchasing additional equipment, it’s been nonstop since Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican’s representative to the United States, announced the papal visit in November. And that does not even touch upon security screening that journalists must go through for the first papal trip to the U.S. in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

CNS Visual Media Manager Nancy Wiechec dreamed that a USCCB employee insisted that he needed a mug shot — literally — of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He insisted he needed a photo to reproduce on coffee mugs, immediately. When Wiechec pointed out that the pope was arriving in the U.S. the following day, the employee grew belligerent.

One USCCB staffer who has been working on papal trip preparations dreamed that when Pope Benedict arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, she was the only person there to greet him. She said that as she searched frantically for the welcoming dignitaries, she assured the pontiff that people would come, but they were stuck in D.C. traffic.

I realized that I might have shared too much of my office tension when my husband announced his nightmare: He arrived at the office late one night during the papal trip to take me home from work. I was the only person standing in front of the building when, suddenly, Secret Service agents surrounded us and demanded identification. I had the proper ID, but he did not. So, he recounted, I took the car and waved goodbye, while he was hauled away in a horse-drawn paddy wagon.

As the trip approaches and the stress increases, you might think we wished we were not involved.

In your dreams! This is the kind of thing journalists live for.

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