The pope is apparently quite confident that the U.S. government can keep him safe during his visit, according to a story on AFP. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told Vatican Radio that the pope is "very calm" as he prepares to head to Washington, D.C., and New York. That makes one of us.
The pope's upcoming visit has been a study in security operations, as even little old ladies from parishes in upstate New York have been subjected to background checks before being granted seats at Yankee Stadium. Word has it that loads of tickets will go unused because the original participants are sick or unable to attend and the tickets are non-transferable for security reasons.
Of course there's a good chance the "smaller" numbers of Catholics and other fans allowed into papal visit venues due to extra tight security will be spun by the press as a sign that Pope Benedict is not as popular as his predecessor. But Pope John Paul II was pope of a different era, a time when open-air Masses could be held in Central Park, drawing upwards of 100,000 people. Unfortunately, those days are behind us.
Not long ago I interviewed Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, a long-time friend of Pope Benedict XVI, who told me that people came out to see Pope John Paul II, but they come out to hear Pope Benedict. (You can read that full OSV interview here.) As far as I know, you can still listen to the pope without submitting to a background check, so no matter what the head counts at the stadiums say, it's the heart counts that matter in this game.
-- Mary DeTurris Poust