One in a series.
Catholic News Service Rome bureau staffers always get to cover papal trips, yet, as Pope Francis’ visit approached, we in Washington began thinking about our favorite moments of when we got to cover popes. No one in our newsroom is a papal rookie, so we agreed to share some of our stories.
Journalists got the word over the summer: Because of security concerns, journalists covering Pope Francis’ visit — even if they lived in one of the cities he was visiting — had to stay at the hotel designated in each city as the media center.
Moreover, a journalist could cover only one event a day.
Looking at street plans for the pope’s September visit, it’s easy to see that the plans are designed for the pontiff to get from one place to the next, but not anybody else. But journalists are trained to go after the story, and that’s precisely how we did things when Pope John Paul II visited the United States in 1987 and Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008.
First, the Polish pope’s trip. I was lucky enough to score a pair of tickets to the papal welcome ceremony in the cathedral in Detroit. This required driving to an assigned parish, hopping on a charter bus, parking only somewhat close to the cathedral, going through the security sweep, and waiting an hour and a half or so for Pope John Paul. The actual ceremony was hardly anticlimactic, but after all was said and done, it probably wasn’t until 11:30 p.m. that I was able to return home — which might have been at most a 20-minute drive to the cathedral.
Couple in traditional garb greet Pope John Paul in Hamtramck, Mich., in 1987. (Photo by Arturo Mari/L’Osservatore Romano)
But for someone covering the pope, one goes where one has to. Because I was assigned to cover Pope John Paul’s early-morning address to Polonia -– Poles outside Poland –- in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck, I had made advance arrangements to stay overnight at a friend’s house. I got about three hours’ sleep before the alarm woke me up so I could get back to my car, drop off my old clothes, and stand in line in an intermittent drizzle for another security sweep.
But the event was held with no hiccups -– and it stopped raining! -– but I had another papal (Read More)