(Vatican Radio) When Pope Francis lands in the United States on Tuesday 22nd of September he will become the fourth Roman pontiff to visit the nation. He visits in the footsteps of his predecessors to the See of Peter Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II (with his record seven trips) and Benedict XVI, now Pope emeritus.
But this first Latin American Pope will enjoy some historical firsts as well: in Washington DC he’ll address a joint meeting of the US Congress, in New York he’ll speak at the General Assembly during its annual general session and in Philadelphia he’ll preside over a canonisation ceremony (that of Blessed Junipero Serra ).
Interestingly too he visits during an anniversary year for diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United States. Thirty years on Veronica Scarisbrick shines the spotlight on relations in the making between the two states with historian, Professor Gerald Fogarty SJ from the University of Virginia in the United States who takes us from 1783 to 1963.
A programme presented and produced by Veronica Scarisbrick:
As you'll discover until the 1890's there were simply no United States Ambassadors appointed to the Holy See. And it seems that at one point in history Catholics weren't always exactly popular in this nation. But events following World War II led to a change in policy.
As Professor Fogarty further explains things changed when John Fitzgerald Kennedy ran for presidency: :"..it became one of the two crucial issues in the campaign of John Kennedy for President of the United States: was he in favour of diplomatic relations with the Vatican and of financial federal aid to parochial schools? ... “
It seems too that there was hesitation as to whether or not the President could meet with a Roman Pontiff. But in 1963 he eventually did.