Noting the length and complexity of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Trip to Cuba and the United States, the director of the Holy See Press Office stated that it will be the Holy Father’s longest visit to date.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi briefed journalists today at the Holy See Press Office on the Pope’s 10th International Apostolic Visit.
The trip, which will last from September 19th -28th, will be the Holy Father’s first to both countries. While the main reason for the visit will be the Pope’s attendance at the World Meeting of Families, Fr. Lombardi stated that it will be also be a historical one. During his visit to the US, the Holy Father will be the first Pope in history to address a joint session of the United States Congress.
Pope Francis will depart from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport on Saturday, September 19th and will arrive at approximately 4:00 pm in Havana’s José Martí airport. Fr. Lombardi said that the Holy Father will be welcomed by Cuban President Raul Castro as well as government and Church authorities. Following the welcoming ceremonies, the Pope will make his way to Havana where he will rest from the long journey.
The director of the Holy See Press Office highlighted the significance of the Pope’s visit to Cuba, given that the island nation has been visited by three Pontiffs in less than 15 years. St. John Paul II visited the island in 1998, followed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
On Sunday, September 20th, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass at Revolution Square, site of previous papal Masses, in the morning. During the Mass, he will administer communion to 5 children from Havana. In the afternoon, he will make his way to the presidential palace near the Square where he will have a private meeting with President Castro. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will meet simultaneously with his Cuban counterpart as well as with members of the Cuban government.
Although not included in the schedule, Fr. Lombardi stated that it is more than likely that the Holy Father will meet privately at some point with former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
After his visit to the Presidential Palace, the Pope will then go to the Cathedral of Havana where he will pray Vespers with priests, religious and seminarians of the island. Fr. Lombardi stated that the service will include testimonies from several religious and a homily by the Holy Father. The Holy Father will conclude the day with a youth meeting at the Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela. Several thousand youth are expected to attend.
On Monday morning, the Pope will depart Havana for the city of Holguin. Upon his arrival, the Holy Father will make his way to the square for an open-air Mass. Fr. Lombardi noted that the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Matthew, to whom Pope Francis is particularly devoted. The Holy Father’s coat of arms contains the words Miserando Atque Eligendo, [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], which are taken from the Homilies of Bede the Venerable on the calling of Matthew.
Following the Mass, the Pope will head to the Loma de la Cruz, an area overlooking the city, where he will bless Holguin. In the afternoon, he will then depart for Santiago de Cuba and make his way to the Minor seminary of San Basilio where he will have a meeting with the bishops of Cuba. The seminary, which is where the Pope will reside in Santiago, is located near the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. Fr. Lombardi noted the significance that the image has not only to local Catholics, but to all Cubans. Pope Francis’ visit will also coincide with the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of Our Lady of Charity as the patroness of Cuba.
Following his meeting with the bishops, the Pope will conclude his day with a prayer service along with the bishops at the Shrine. Fr. Lombardi said that the Holy Father will “recite two beautiful prayers.” The first prayer he will recite was said by Pope Benedict XVI during his 2012 visit, the second prayer was written by Pope Francis. He will also present flowers to the image of Our Lady of Charity.
On his final day in Cuba, Francis will celebrate a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity and this will be followed by a meeting of families at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Santiago.
The Pope will then depart Cuba and fly to Washington’s Andrews Air Force Base, where he will be welcomed by the First family: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Sasha and Malia. From there, the Pope will head to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. for the rest of the day.
The following day, the 78-year-old Pontiff will attend a welcoming ceremony hosted by President Obama at the White House. Fr. Lombardi said that just as in past papal visits to the White House, the atmosphere is expected to be “festive”. After both the Pontiff and the American President deliver addresses, they will then meet for private discussions.
The Holy Father will then go to St. Matthew’s Cathedral where he will meet and address 400 U.S. Bishops. In the afternoon, he will head to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and preside over the Canonization Mass of Blessed Junipero Serra.
On Thursday, September 24th, Pope Francis will arrive at the United States Capitol where he will address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Following his address, he will head to the Capitol Rotunda and then a balcony where he will bless the thousands expected to gather at the National Mall. The Pope will then head to a meeting with the city’s homeless at St. Patrick’s Church and then make his way to the airport where he will depart for New York.
Upon his arrival to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, he will be escorted by helicopter to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. There he will preside over a celebration of Vespers with the city’s clergy and religious before concluding his day. On Friday, the Pope will make his way to the United Nations headquarters where prior to addressing the 69th U.N. General Assembly, he will meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He will also lay flowers at a memorial for U.N. staff who have died worldwide during their service.
Pope Francis will then head to Ground Zero, where he will participate at an interreligious meeting at the site of the deadly terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th. The Holy Father will also visit the memorial museum which houses recovered items from the attack, including two steel beams that were found in the form of a cross. He will then head to Harlem for a meeting with some of the city’s immigrant families before celebrating Mass at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
World Meeting of Families
On Saturday, September 26th, the Holy Father will depart for Philadelphia and head to the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul where he will celebrate Mass with the city’s clergy and religious.
Following the Mass, the Pope will head to Independence National Historic Park, home of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, where he will attend a Religious Freedom meeting with the Hispanic community. In the evening, he will arrive for the prayer vigil of the Festival of the Family at the World Meeting of Families in Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
On the final day of his visit, the Pope will meet with the Bishops participating at the World Meeting of Families. From there, he will visit prisoners and staff at the Fromhold Correctional Facility. Finally, he will celebrate the Closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families. The Holy Father will meet with organizers and volunteers of the World Meeting of Families at Philadelphia’s International Airport. Vice President Joe Biden, along with his family and government officials are expected to be present to bid Pope Francis farewell.