I spent two fascinating hours on Italian television this morning as part of a panel about the papal trip on TV2000, the network of the Italian Episcopal Conference. At 9 am, I wondered how the time would go by, even with videos from Pope Francis’ time in Cuba and interesting guests, and at 11, I wondered how the time had flown by so fast! A fascinating experience, especially given that I had to express myself in Italian, my “second” language! Helps me understand why Pope Francis is more comfortable in public with Italian or Spanish than with English.

As I write, Pope Francis is winging his way north, due to arrive in Washington D.C. at 4 pm local time (10 pm in Rome) perhaps even a bit earlier as his plane left Santiago de Cuba about 15 or so minutes early.


Below are two links to stories with info that may interest you; one is about 9 papal moments you may have missed in Cuba and the second is about what lawmakers will be allowed to do – or discouraged from doing – when the Pope speaks to Congress Thursday. Following those links is a story making headlines around the world: it concerns the list of guests President Obama has invited to the White House for the official welcome for Pope Francis tomorrow.

Here’s a link to an interesting story by CNA/EWTN news on the ground in Cuba – a story you may have missed about the papal visit to Cuba:

And here’s a piece from Roll Call that talks about what members of Congress must do and must not do, can do and cannot do when Pope Francis goes to the U.S. Capitol on September 24 to address a joint session of Congress – a first in the history of America. Let’s see if people follow the rulebook! Roll Call, owned by the Economist group, is a non partisan newspaper published in Washington from Monday to Friday when the U.S. Congress is in session.


What many consider to be the most unfortunate story – or as one person put it, “a totally classless act by Obama” – to come out of D.C. vis-à-vis the papal visit concerns the guest list for the official reception for Pope Francis at the White House tomorrow. It has made a lot of headlines here and is all over the place in the U.S. media, including radio and television commentators as well as online news services, blogs editorial pages, etc.

Two sample headlines in Italy: Obama’s Insult – Left breathless by the welcoming ceremony at the White House.

One U.S. news report speaks of the Vatican irritation at the guest list without naming or hinting at a source. The report also says, “According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See has noted its concerns that any photos of the Pope with these controversial guests could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.”

The Guardian wrote: “A Vatican official has said the White House was “smart enough” to know it ought not to try to embarrass Pope Francis at a planned welcome reception for the pontiff next week that will include several guests – including a transgender woman and gay activists – whose presence highlights some of the church’s exclusionary policies. The Vatican official – who asked not to be identified – said that officials in Rome were not “overly concerned” that the White House guest list for the pope’s welcome party in Washington included guests that could be considered controversial for the church. But the person added that it would be the White House, not the Holy See, that would find it embarrassing if the welcome party, which will partly be held on the South Lawn and will include 15,000 guests, looked like a political stunt.”

Here, in part, is an editorial board piece from the Washington Post, entitled “The White House is more afraid of offending China’s president than the Pope”:

“THE VATICAN has raised objections to a few of the guests invited to the White House arrival ceremony next week for Pope Francis. The Wall Street Journal reported that the guests include transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and a nun who criticizes church policies on abortion and euthanasia. The Vatican worries that photos taken with the pope might be used to suggest his endorsement of activities he in fact disapproves of.

“White House spokesman Josh Earnest, in his briefing Thursday, wouldn’t comment on individual invitees but noted that a very large crowd will assemble for the Wednesday event. “[T]hat’s why I would warn you against drawing a lot of conclusions about one or two or maybe even three people who may be on the guest list, because there will be 15,000 other people there too.”

“That’s a fair point. … No doubt there’s often a fine balance between hospitality and principle when foreign visitors come to town. The administration doesn’t want to give offense, but it also doesn’t want to give in to what it may see as prejudices that it doesn’t share.

“What struck us as we read about this small controversy is the contrast between the administration’s apparent decision to risk a bit of rudeness in the case of the pope and its overwhelming deference to foreign dictators when similar issues arise. When Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Havana to reopen the U.S. Embassy recently, he painstakingly excluded from the guest list any democrat, dissident or member of civil society who might offend the Castro brothers.

“And when Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to the White House next week, shortly after the pope leaves town, it’s a safe bet that he won’t have to risk being photographed with anyone of whom he disapproves. Chen Guangcheng, the courageous blind lawyer, for example, lives nearby in exile, but he probably won’t be at the state dinner. Neither will Falun Gong activists, democracy advocates or anyone else who might, well, give offense.

Here, in part, is what Joan Frawley Desmond wrote for the National Catholic Register’s online edition:

“Yesterday, the issue of embarrassing the pope at his own welcome ceremony came up during a press conference with the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, who said he was unaware of the names of the invitees.

“Earnest said the White House had reached out to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Washington, but had also directed many other groups to invite guests to the welcome ceremony. Today, a story in Crux echoed this assertion.

“This morning, the USCCB confirmed, in an email response to my query, that additional attendees will include: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the USCCB president, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, and “local ordinaries around the region and the US Cardinals.”

“Still, it would have been much more gracious for the leader of the free world to welcome the Pope without provoking a rebuke from the Vatican. Obama has every reason to cement a relatively new partnership, not risk a breach.

“As Obama pushes for an international consensus to battle global warming ahead of the United Nations conference on climate change this fall, White House aides cite the power of the pope’s passionate entreaties to Christians worldwide about caring for the creation,” the Los Angeles Times reported on Sept 17.