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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Anita McBride

April 15, 2008

Anita McBride
Good afternoon. Tomorrow the President and Mrs. Bush welcome His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as head of state. This is the first papal visit to the White House since 1979, and it is a very special opportunity for millions of Catholics – like myself – to hear from the spiritual leader of their Church. This historic visit is an opportunity for the President and Mrs. Bush and our Nation to welcome a man of faith and conviction to America. The Holy Father leads a Church of around one billion people worldwide, and the President and Mrs. Bush are honored that he has chosen the United States for a visit as he celebrates his 81st birthday. I’m happy to take your questions.

George, from Houston writes:
How many weeks or months does The White House prepare for a visit such as Pope Benedict XVI and Queen Elizabeth II? Do they have to spend the night at The White House, or does their staff take care of their accomodations?

Anita McBride
Any state arrival requires weeks of planning and preparation to ensure the visiting leader is treated with appropriate respect. Tomorrow's ceremony demanded particular attention to detail because we will have more people attending than ever before—approximately 9,000 guests. To prepare, we have been doing rehearsals of the arrival ceremony as it will take place in the morning.

While in Washington, The Holy Father will stay at the residence of the Papal Nuncio, who is the Vatican's representative in the United States.

Shawn, from Tampa, FL writes:
I read that President Bush is making the unprecedented gesture of meeting His Holiness at the airport. Can you explain the significance of that gesture?

Anita McBride
In addition to the arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn, the President and Mrs. Bush will greet the Holy Father at Andrews Air Force Base when he arrives this afternoon. We reviewed the history of papal visits to the United States, and it is customary for a President and or a First Lady to greet the Holy Father upon his arrival in the United States.

In addition, the President has said that he wants this special greeting – the first time he has met a leader at Andrews – to demonstrate his respect for the leadership of the Holy Father.

Brian, from Doylestown, PA writes:
Hello Mrs. McBride, What will the President and the pope be talking about at the White House and where will the pope be traveling to on his trip to the United States? Thank You.

Anita McBride
Thank you for your question, Brian.

The private meeting between the President and the Holy Father will last about 45 minutes, and they will set their own agenda. They are both men of great faith and, as such, have many issues of shared concern to discuss.

During his trip, the Pope will be making stops in Washington, DC, and New York City, including celebrating Masses at Nationals Stadium and Yankee Stadium.

Mary, from Springfield, VA writes:
Dear Ms. McBride: I believe the Pope's birthday will occur when he is in the United States. Is the White House planning a special dinner? If so, what will be served? Thank you in advance for your response.



Anita McBride
Yes, Mary, the Holy Father’s 81st birthday is April 16th, and the President and Mrs. Bush are delighted that he will be celebrating in the United States and at the White House.

There will be a White House dinner tomorrow evening for Catholic leaders and friends from around the country, including some of the clergy that have worked on the Papal visit. Although the Holy Father's busy schedule will prevent his attendance, Mrs. Bush has arranged for a Bavarian-style menu in tribute to his German birthplace.

Ruth, from Amana, Iowa writes:
Anita, First of all, thank you for all your hard work there at the White House

I would also like to know how long the Pope will be in the U.S., and what events will take place for the Pope while at the White House. Thanks Ruth

Anita McBride
Pope Benedict will be in the United States from April 15th to April 20th and has a very ambitious schedule.

The President and Mrs. Bush will participate by greeting the Holy Father at Andrews Air Force Base when he arrives this afternoon. They will also welcome him to the White House at a formal arrival ceremony tomorrow morning. This event will include many elements of a traditional arrival ceremony, such as a performance by the Army's Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. We have also chosen some musical selections especially for the Holy Father, including “The Lord’s Prayer,” sung by vocalist Kathleen Battle, and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” sung by the Army Chorus.

After the ceremony ends, President and Mrs. Bush will escort the Pope to a meeting with some of their family members in the Blue Room. The President will then welcome the Holy Father to the Oval Office for a private meeting.

Anita McBride
Thanks to each of you for these thoughtful questions. It has been a pleasure to talk with you about this historic visit. Please stay tuned for more information about the Holy Father’s trip, including photos and transcripts of White House events, which will be posted online at

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