Pope Saint John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was the most traveled Pope in history, visiting over 129 countries during his time as pope. His visits to the United States alone totaled 7 times! During his U.S. visits, he met with multiple presidents in various locations around the U.S., including Presidents Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, and Clinton. When Pope John Paul II came to the United States in 1979, he visited Washington D.C., and he was the first pope to visit the White House, where he met with President Jimmy Carter privately in the Oval Office.

During his trip, he celebrated Mass for 1,500 priests at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. While he was inside, a crowd gathered outside and began chanting “John Paul II, we want you!” When Pope John Paul II appeared on the balcony, he smiled and replied, “John Paul II. He wants you.” He also celebrated a public Mass on the National Mall, which was attended by 175,000 people. His homily during Mass primarily focused on the dignity of human life as well as marriage.

Pope Benedict XVI

When Pope Benedict XVI made a visit to the United States in April of 2008, he was received personally by President George W. Bush at the Andrews Air Force Base. This was the first time any president had met a foreign dignitary at the base itself, as they usually wait to greet visitors at the White House, so it was quite an honor. When they arrived at the White House, there was a crowd waiting who sang Pope Benedict XVI happy birthday. President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI met for a short time in the Oval Office, where the president gave him a birthday cake.

After this meeting, there was a parade which traveled to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with Pope Benedict XVI riding in the pope mobile. The next day he celebrated mass at the National Park Stadium where 46,000 people attended. The pope spoke on the child sex abuse scandal and urged people to foster healing and reconciliation. After Mass he visited the Catholic University of America and spoke about the role of Church in education.