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June, 2019

The Scoop on the Pope’s Visit to CUA

By Hughan Biggar

CUA staff members landscape the lawn behind the Pryzbyla Center in preparation for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.

Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visits to campus on April 16 and 17 have generated intense interest around the globe and among CUA staff, students and alumni. This first papal visit to the university in 28 years has the CUA community busy with preparations.

The Holy Father is scheduled to address the bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, coincidentally the pontiff’s 81st birthday. Earlier in the day, he will meet with President Bush at the White House. Faculty and staff can obtain tickets to stand on the CUA mall to see the Holy Father as he arrives at and departs from the basilica and can also get tickets for their immediate family members. CUA alumni have also been invited.

The following morning the pope travels to Nationals Park in Southeast Washington, D.C., where he will celebrate a Mass before 45,000 worshipers at 10 a.m. The Mass will be televised at CUA on a large screen on the lawn area between the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center and the Columbus School of Law.

Two hundred twenty-five lucky students will receive tickets to the Mass at Nationals Park. The tickets will be allocated according to a lottery for which all undergraduate, graduate and law students were eligible. For those watching the Mass from campus, a full day of activities — including a movie and musical entertainment — will take place on the lawn between the Pryzbyla Center and the law school.

The altar and chair used during the Mass will be creations of two School of Architecture and Planning graduate students, John-Paul Mikolajczyk and Ryan Mullen, who won a contest to design the papal furnishings. In addition, CUA alumnus Thomas Stehle, M.A. 1991, M. Arch. 1997, the pastoral associate for liturgy and music at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Md., will oversee the music at the Mass. Stehle will direct a 250-voice papal choir, along with additional ethnic choirs, for a total of about 550 voices, accompanied by a pianist, organist and 25-piece orchestra. The Archdiocese of Washington conducted an audition for the papal choir among local Catholics.

After the morning Mass, the Holy Father will arrive on campus in the late afternoon to address the presidents of more than 200 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, as well as education leaders from 195 dioceses at 5 p.m. He will sit in a chair designed by four architecture and planning students: Javid Farazad, Christopher Fullam, Doug Pettit and Siobhan Steen.

A broadcast of the Mass and the Holy Father’s address is expected to air on the Eternal Word Television Network and elsewhere, and a video and audio live stream of the April 17 address will be available on the CUA Web site


Catholic University and College Students Welcome the Pope Day
Four thousand tickets will be distributed to CUA students, faculty and staff to gather in the lawn area between the Pryzbyla Center and the law school. From that location, they will be able to witness the pope’s arrival at the Pryzbyla Center, watch his speech live on a JumboTron and view his departure in the popemobile.

Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., CUA’s president, has invited Catholic students from other area universities — Catholic and non-Catholic — to come to campus to catch a glimpse of the pope. Declaring April 17 “Catholic University and College Students Welcome the Pope Day,” he has offered blocks of tickets to Catholic university presidents and, in the case of non-Catholic institutions, to directors of campus ministry and Newman clubs. These students will be positioned in a different part of campus, where they will be able to see Pope Benedict XVI in the popemobile as he traverses campus to his next destination — the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. There he will meet with leaders from several religions, including Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism and Judaism.

Among the lucky few who will get a seat inside the Great Room of the Pryzbyla Center, where the pope will address U.S. educational leaders, will be the winner and runner-up of the university-sponsored papal essay contest. CUA undergraduate, graduate and law students were invited in March to contribute essays on how their life has been changed by Catholic education. Father O’Connell assembled a panel of judges to help him choose the winner and runner-up, who will be selected in early April.

Plan Ahead
Those coming to campus to welcome the Holy Father on April 16 or 17 are encouraged to plan ahead. Classes will be cancelled and academic buildings will be closed both days. There will be no parking on campus on April 17, and only the university garage will be open for on-campus parking on April 16. Area street parking will be restricted and, for portions of each day, some roads near campus will be closed. However, Metrorail will function normally, though there may be detours as pedestrians walk from the CUA/Brookland station to campus. All students, faculty and staff will need to have a valid CUA photo ID with them as they enter and exit the campus and as they walk around the campus during the times of the papal visit. The Department of Public Safety is urging everyone who possesses a CUA ID to wear it around their neck using a lanyard in order to ensure easy access to and from campus. Those needing a free lanyard may pick one up from the public safety office in Leahy Hall during regular business hours.

Most areas of campus will remain unrestricted, and students needing to reach destinations on or off campus will be able to do so, provided they allow for longer traveling times. Students are encouraged to get out of their rooms on April 16 and 17 to enjoy what is expected to be a festive atmosphere. Plans are under way to welcome scores of media outlets during that time.

For more information on the papal visit, members of the CUA community are encouraged to visit the password protected Web site at

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Last Revised 31-Mar-08 12:27 PM.