The Pope Arrives in DC

Pope Benedict has arrived here in the Imperial City of Washington, and all manner of road closings and television specials have been announced. But, the quietest notice came at the gym this morning. I work out at the Catholic University gym, and there were no pick-up games of basketball. The main gymnasium has special flooring for a dinner that is being thrown for the students by CUA president David O’Connell, CM to honor the Pope’s visit to the campus. But the gym will re-open the day after the visit, so the students can work of those extra calories from the festive meal. More difficult to digest is the expected speech the Pope will deliver at CUA. Along with the address at the UN, the CUA speech will be the most important and substantive speech the Pope will give while here. Some news reports have indicated they anticipate a dressing down for American Catholic Academia, but they’re wrong. The Pope will certainly focus on Catholic identity, but he is not coming all this way to slap wrists. The Pope will give his address at the Great Hall in the student center. I attended the opening of that center which featured a presentation of Leonard Bernstein’s "Mass" by the extraordinarily talented students at CUA’s music school. This is what Catholic identity should be about: the performance of great art and scholarship and culture that spring forth from our Christian faith. It is fitting that Benedict will address the role of Catholic universities in shaping and, indeed, generating culture in the same room. Meanwhile, don’t drive downtown. It’s a mess. And you can leave the basketball at home until Friday. Michael Sean Winters

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