Pope to address U.N., Boston visit unclear

BOSTON -- The New York Archdiocese confirmed July 16 that Pope Benedict XVI will be making his first trip to the United States to address the United Nations in spring 2008. It remains unclear, however, whether the pope will include a stop in Boston during his visit.

The Archdiocese of Boston announced July 17 that the pope has not yet accepted or declined an invitation extended by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley to visit the archdiocese during its bicentennial year.

An archdiocesan statement said that Cardinal O’Malley is pleased that Pope Benedict will visit New York.

“At this time we have not received any further information concerning the Holy Father’s itinerary,” the statement said. “The cardinal has personally shared with Pope Benedict that the people of the archdiocese would be greatly pleased and encouraged if the pope was able to visit Boston during the course of his visit to the United States.”

The New York Post, citing unnamed Vatican sources, reported on July 16 that the pope will likely visit several other U.S. cities and that one of those cities will likely be Boston.

The Archdiocese of New York said it was delighted that Pope Benedict XVI “will be addressing the United Nations here in New York this coming spring.”

A statement issued by Joseph Zwilling, New York archdiocesan communications director, was apparently the first official indication that such a visit would take place in the spring. Earlier reports only had the pope possibly coming sometime next year.

Zwilling told Catholic News Service July 16 that unnamed sources said the pope would be visiting in the spring instead of late September, when the new session of the U.N. General Assembly opens, because of next year’s presidential elections.

The mid-July news reports on the possible papal trip to New York were triggered by comments by the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. He told reporters in Lorenzago di Cadore, Italy, where the pope was vacationing in July, that in addition to the planned papal trip to Australia next summer for World Youth Day, the Vatican also is looking at other possible trips next year, including a U.N. visit.

He did not give a date for the visit or for another possible trip next year to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France to mark the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions there.

It would be Pope Benedict’s first visit to the United Nations and his first visit as pope to the United States. Pope John Paul II addressed the United Nations in 1979 and 1995, and Pope Paul VI did so in 1965.

In the New York statement, Zwilling said the archdiocese is looking forward to welcoming the pope and awaits “details about his visit.”

He said Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York had told the pope during the previous week that the archdiocese will be praying that the papal visit to New York “will be crowned with every grace and blessing.”