Pope Benedict XVI will make the first papal visit to the District in 29 years next week, and although he will not visit Georgetown, the university is preparing to welcome His Holiness.

“To be able to come before God with the head of our religious institution, the head of the Church, is a real special opportunity for our students. And so I think they recognize it, and they are able to celebrate that,” said Fr. Timothy Godfrey, S.J., director of campus ministry.

The Office of Mission and Ministry has organized a number of on-campus events surrounding the visit.

On April 15, a discussion with faculty members on the significance of the pope’s visit will take place in the Philodemic Room. In addition, the university is organizing a viewing of the papal Mass in Gaston Hall on April 17.

Fr. James Schall, S.J., spoke in Healy Hall yesterday on Benedict’s most recent encyclical, “Spe Salvi,” which addressed Catholic beliefs regarding purgatory, hell, heaven and death.

Pope Benedict XVI has never been to the United States during his papacy. Pope John Paul II last visited the United States in 2002.

The pope will arrive in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, April 15, and meet with President George W. Bush the next day. On April 17 he will say Mass at Nationals Park, his only public event while in the nation’s capital, and then address Catholic university presidents and other Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America. He will travel to New York City on April 18, where he will visit Ground Zero, speak at the United Nations and say Mass at Yankee Stadium. He will return to the Vatican on April 20.

Large crowds are expected to greet the pope during his visit. A capacity crowd of more than 46,000 will attend Mass at Nationals Park, and more than three times this number originally requested tickets, according to the Archdiocese of Washington. Many more remain on a waitlist for tickets.

A limited number of tickets to the Mass will be given out to Georgetown students through a lottery system administered by the Lecture Fund. In order to enter the lottery, students must submit their name to the Lecture Fund at the group’s table in Red Square between today and Thursday. Winners will be notified next Tuesday.

Campus Ministry also made tickets available to students to see Benedict parade the grounds of CUA on Thursday afternoon.

Godfrey said the papal Mass presents a unique opportunity for local Catholics.

“[Mass] is the sharing of our deepest identity, of who we are, and to do that with the pope is a real blessing and a gift,” he said.

“Georgetown certainly has taken on a decent role in trying to get students to visit and involved,” said Joe Kapusnick (SFS ’10), service coordinator of the Georgetown chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

Kapusnick added that the university has made more than adequate preparations for such a monumental event.

“Georgetown is certainly affirming its identity as a Catholic university by providing tickets, transportation, showing the papal Mass at the Nationals’ stadium in Gaston Hall,” he said.

Godfrey said he anticipates the upcoming papal visit to be “a unifying experience” for Catholics and non-Catholics.

“Hopefully it can be further healing, further growth, further celebration and further coming together among all of us,” he said.

The last time D.C. hosted a pope was in 1979, when Pope John Paul II came to the capital after his recent election. During this visit, the pope celebrated Mass on the National Mall, an event that was largely open to the public and attracted 175,000 people. But, according to the Associated Press, security concerns have limited this papal visit to only one public event and heightened security measures around the city.

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