Corridors of Power: Pope Benedict XVI’s U.S. Visit

Corridors of Power: Pope Benedict XVI’s U.S. Visit

PAPAL VISIT -- As the American media lavish attention on Pope Benedict XVI´s visit to the United States, the other part of his itinerary has rated hardly a mention. On Friday, the 81-year-old pontiff will address the U.N. General Assembly in New York. To the Vatican, the pope's pronouncement to the world from the platform of the United Nations ranks as high in importance as his "pastoral" visit to Catholic America. The pope´s U.N. speech is a historic event in his papacy -- a statement of how he sees the world.

In reality, the pope's trip is a triple header. It has three distinct agendas: his U.N. speech, his encounter with the American hierarchy and the faithful, and his meeting with President George Bush. But the origin of the trip was an invitation from the United Nations to speak at the General Assembly, as two of his predecessors had done (Paul VI, and John Paul II), according to senior Vatican sources. The pope decided to combine it with a subsequent invitation from President Bush. Hence the decision to start the trip in Washington.

President Bush said this week that Pope Benedict's vsit is not political. Rather, he said, it is the visit of a man of God. In reality, the White House is receiving the pontiff with the pomp and circumstance due to him as a head of state. The pope is both spiritual head of the Roman Catholic faith and ruler of Vatican City.

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