Behind the scenes

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 9, 2008
Papal trips don't just happen. They are the sum of a million details, signed, sealed and delivered by an army of church workers. Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States is a case in point. My friend John Thavis, Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service, offers an interesting glimpse behind the scenes in one of his Rome audio reports.

John has been working for Catholic News Service, an agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for about 18 years and has been on more papal trips than he cares to remember. In this audio clip, found on the U.S. Papal Visit web site , he talks about how papal visits come to be and the army of specialists who descend upon a country to determine every last detail — right down to how many steps the Pope will take from the popemobile to his next assignment.

BTW: You'll also find on the papal visit web site the video of Benedict's message to the American people and lots of other interesting information. 

With Benedict, the logistics have become a little less onerous. His Holiness will turn 81 on April 16, the day after his arrival. His age, combined with a personal style that is definitely less "public" than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, mean foreign visits that are generally limited to two public events a day and perhaps a few more intimate gatherings.

While John Paul loved to work a crowd — the bigger the better — Benedict is less at ease with throngs of people. Thus his advance troops try to strike a careful balance between his face time with the crowd and his personal need to recoup his energy during what can be rather stressful occasions.

John Paul set the bar so high on these occasions that it is easy to forget that most popes are old men. As with us, for them, life doesn't get any easier.


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