LOST in the excitements and anxieties of the Papal visit to Ireland is the fact that one of the "excuses" for it is that it is a stopover on the way to the United States. And the Americans have met some formidable problems.
For example, he . arrives at Boston on October I. Despite its aristocratic and Protestant tradition ("where the Cabots speak only to Lodges and the Lodges speak only to God" — or is it the other way round?) the city has a huge and vociferous population of Irish and Hispanic origin.
He is going to say Mass on Boston Common which is a great open space in the centre of the city, sacred to a Puritan democracy, lined with the noblest surviving houses, the most expensive hotels and golden domed State Capitol. They once burned a Quaker here for heresy.
From Boston he goes to New York to address the United Nations. Pope Paul VI did the same and made a brilliant speech which delighted the delegates and made not the slightest difference to this cracked looking glass held up to the prejudices, selfishnesses and antagonisms of the nations they so expensively represent.
Then he goes to Philadelphia which is a grim city with a grim ex-police chief Mayor but which has an old heart which is the shrine of American independence. Then he goes briefly to Des Moines and spends the nights of the 4th and 5th in Chicago where Cardinal Cody, its Archbishop, has achieved a quite astonishing unpopularity with his clergy. We do not seem to have ecclesiastical rows on the American scale, at least in public.
Then he goes to Washington DC. There he will stay at the Apostolic Delegation, The Americans are not officially represented at the Vatican, so there is no Nuncio with ambassadorial rank. The delegation has a fine, great house,
like a French town hotel of a decapitated noble. It is across the
, road from the British Embassy on
die grandest. of the Avenues. When I lived in Washington no
one even seemed to enter or leave the place and it stood quiet and recollected like an elegant monk at perpetual prayer.
By the time he reaches Washington he should be fit to drop. His rest periods are brief, his public Masses frequent, his side trips to massed nuns and Polish areas frequent. Curiously, in the United States, the Poles have never achieved the sort of promotion in an English based society, long since won by the Germans and more recently by the Irish. This is their chance to make their point.
On October 6 he calls on the White House to exchange pleasantries with the Baptist, "Born Again" President, after which there is a reception for 4,000 invited guests in the grounds of the White House. This will not take the Catholic vote from Senator Kennedy bet it's a nicety.
The next day there is one more of his solemn Masses in the Mall. This is the vast oblong of grass bordered by national buildings like the Smithsonian Museum. At one end there is the dome and facade of the Capitol, the seat of the senate and the House of Representatives with the statue of President Grant looking gloomy on a horse, looking a bit overdramatic at one end. He was the general of whom someone complained to President Lincoln that he drank too much. The President asked what brand of whisky he drank so that he might recommend it to his other generals.
At the other end of the Mall there is the towering needle of the Washington Monument.
In this great space which could hold a million people, they are building a three-tiered podium for an altar which will be 10,000 feet square. There will be a choir of 1,500 and 5,000 reserved seats. No one really knows what it will cost. There is to be a special papal chair and a new chalice.
Under the American Constitution, the oldest still in operation in the world, Church and State are sternly set apart. The City here, as in Boston and elsewhere. is prepared to pay for the police protection and the street cleaning and the barrier building. They will do that for any demonstration and they are used to whisking about the Queen and Communist leaders of the utmost nastiness and sensitive and boring rulers in whom no one outside the State Department (Foreign Office to you) is in the slightest interested. This will be on a different scale and the American police have, by folk tradition, a bent towards Catholicism.
But the Archdiocese of Washington, with the help of the Diocese of Arlingtron just across the Potomac River, has to pay for the altar, the loudspeakers, the tented sacristies and perhaps for the countless loos that will be needed around the Mall. Say, half a million dollars. This will be the pattern in all the cities.
They have ordered papal flags, medals and pictures that can be sold decorously through the parishes. They cannot do anything about T-shirts, already on sale in drugstores, emblazoned with "Take a peek at the Pope".
They have to choose 150 people to receive Holy Communion from the Pope himself and that will set the fat on fire. By Roman ordinance women, not even nuns, licensed to distribute Communion in parish churches may do so at a Papal occasion. That has ceremonially infuriated the Catholic feminists who come especially strong in the United States. A multi-racial group of six laymen will comprise the Offertory procession.
And to pay for all this. Cardinal William Baum of Washington has suggested that each of his parish priests should raise five dollars from each of the 400,000 families registered as Church members in the archdiocese.
So far the national coverage of the visit has not equalled that in the national press in, say, England. But it will and I cannot understand how John Paul 11 can go on like this. It appears that no one learned anything from the end ofJohn Paul I. I hear that the Cities of Baltimore and Cleveland, in the person of their elected leaders, have complained bitterly that he is not visiting them.