The Catholic University of America
On Monday, Nov. 12, CUA confirmed the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will visit campus on April 17, 2008. A Nov. 13 Washington Post article about the visit quoted Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., CUA president, and William D'Antonio, adjunct professor, sociology. Several other media outlets detailed the pope's trip including Reuters, Catholic News Service and the Washington Examiner. Father O'Connell was interviewed by NBC 4 (Washington) as well. See The Washington Post story below.

Pope Will Visit D.C. In April
Benedict XVI To Celebrate Mass At New Ballpark

From: The Washington Post
Date: Nov. 13, 2007
Authors: Michelle Boorstein and Jacqueline L. Salmon

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Washington for three days in April, a Vatican spokesman announced yesterday, the first time a pope will be in the capital since 1979. Tens of thousands are expected to celebrate Mass with him in the new Nationals baseball stadium.

Benedict, who will turn 81 while visiting, had planned to speak before the United Nations in New York and then added the three-day stop in Washington, during which he will also go to the White House and meet with Catholic educators.

Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl beamed yesterday during a meeting in Baltimore of American Catholic bishops as he talked about the pope's visit, saying he invited Benedict to Washington "and then we did pray. We prayed very hard."

It will be Benedict's first visit to the United States as pope and the first papal visit to the United States since the Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal exploded in Boston in 2002. Vatican officials expressed hope that the visit might encourage a rejuvenation of the church in the wake of the controversy.

"We should issue an invitation to return for those who have left the church. The church is still the church of Jesus Christ, of the Gospel, and of the mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to his apostles," Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the pope's representative in the United States, said at a news conference in Baltimore.

Benedict's decision not to visit Boston was the subject of debate among Vatican-watchers and bloggers yesterday. But William S. Skylstad, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the decision to skip Boston was due to the pope's age and limited energy.

Although Benedict is considered shyer and less of a celebrity than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, since becoming pope in 2005 he has made several controversial comments about Islam, the primacy of the Catholic Church and pro-choice Catholic politicians. His visit will be of high interest, analysts said yesterday.

"This is America. People will be asking questions about why he didn't go to Boston, looking for him to say something about the sex-abuse scandal, something that relates to them pastorally, [like] why don't they have enough priests? Why can't laypeople do more?" said David Gibson, a longtime religion reporter and author of "The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle With the Modern World."

"He isn't going to address that agenda. He'll just say: 'Pray harder.' "

Benedict will visit Catholic University and speak about Catholic education. The Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, university president, said the school looks forward to the visit "with tremendous anticipation and enthusiasm."

In the eyes of the Vatican, American Catholics are a complex community, with a quarter of the country's people describing themselves as Catholic but a small minority of that group saying they view church leaders as the proper source of moral authority, primarily when it comes to issues of sexuality. Some analysts said yesterday that the Vatican is concerned that Catholic colleges and universities are teaching the faith in a relative way.

"All of my colleagues who teach at Catholic colleges and universities will be listening carefully to see if he talks about orthodoxy among those who teach theology," said Paul Lakeland, chair of Catholic Studies at Fairfield University.

Benedict will arrive in Washington on April 15. The next day, his birthday, he will be officially welcomed at the White House, and that afternoon he will address a special meeting of the bishops' conference. On April 17, he will celebrate Mass at the new Washington Nationals stadium. Wuerl said he expects that all 41,000 seats will be filled but said he did not yet know how admission will be handled.

The pope also will meet with educators at Catholic University that day before leaving for New York City. There, he will address the United Nations, hold an ecumenical meeting and visit Ground Zero before returning to Rome on April 20.

There are about 1 million Catholics in the area of the Washington and Arlington archdioceses. The Washington Archdiocese includes the District and suburban Maryland counties; the Arlington Archdiocese stretches to Shenandoah County, Va., to the west and the Northern Neck to the south.

William D'Antonio, a sociologist at the Life Cycle Institute at Catholic University, said surveys of U.S. Catholics since 1987 show they are increasingly distancing themselves from Vatican teachings, but he did not see that as a plain rejection of the pope.

"I think they are looking to their consciences versus obedience to authority," he said yesterday. They will probably want to see and hear Benedict when he visits because "they look to his personal holiness" and his teachings on social justice. "To the degree which he'll speak about poverty, conflict and war, he'll receive a very positive reception."

Benedict has provoked great debate in the past year, including this spring, when he said during a news conference in Brazil that he agreed with the excommunication of Mexican lawmakers who legalized abortion. During the U.S. presidential campaign in 2004, U.S. bishops debated how to characterize pro-choice candidates, and this week in Baltimore they will again debate it -- this time in public -- as they vote on a document meant to give American Catholics voting guidance.

The bishops and Benedict are very cautious about this subject, Gibson said, so they don't tie one another's hands. Wuerl, in particular, is in a complex spot, Gibson said, because he is in effect the bishop for all Catholic politicians on Capitol Hill -- both supporters and opponents of abortion rights.

Last fall, Benedict suggested that Islam was prone to violence, igniting furor in the Muslim world. He said later that his comments were misunderstood and has worked toward dialogue with Muslims. This summer, he repeated his belief that Catholicism is the only true church, a statement some worry will hurt relations with other denominations.

Staff writer Howard Schneider contributed to this report.

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