It's COUNTDOWN time!
The Holy Father will be leaving from Rome's Leonardo DaVinci Fiumicino airport in approximately 7 hours (6 am EST). 10 hours later, at 4 pm, his chartered Al Italia jet, affectionately called "Shepherd One" will land at Andrews Air Force Base.
He will be met there by President and Mrs. Bush; Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington; the Auxiliary Bishops of the archdiocese of Washington; Cardinal Francis George, the President of the USCCB; Bishop Gerald Kicanas, the vice-president of the USCCB; Msgr, Davil Malloy, the Secretary General and coordinator if the Holy Father's trip to the U.S. Archbishop Timothy Broglio from the Archdiocese for Military Services will also be present.
Other Church representatives, as well as members of the military and their families are also expected to be there to welcome the Pope. The ceremony will only last 15 minutes and no public addresses are planned.
From the airport, Pope Benedict will travel to the Apostolic Nunciature. He will remain there for the night. The Papal (Apostolic) Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, is the ecclesiastical equivalent of the ambassador to the US from the Holy See. The Nuncio is also responsible for representing the Pope to individual dioceses and to the USCCB.
Photo by Domini Sumus