Pope Passes on Hub Visit
Benedict Skips Boston on Swing through States

By Jessica Van Sack
Boston Herald
November 13, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI is skipping Boston on his first trip to America as pontiff, bypassing the Red Sox [team stats] faithful for an appearance at Yankee Stadium instead.

But experts say Bostonians - even those who think Red Sox Nation is the closest thing to heaven on Earth - shouldn't take it personally as the pope plans trips to New York and Washington, D.C.

Pope Benedict XVI will not visit Boston on his trip to the States next year.

"He's doing the two command performances and simply not doing anything else," said Thomas Groome, director of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. "I don't see anything negative toward Boston."

"I do think it's lamentable that he's going to do a Mass at Yankee Stadium," Groome said, adding that it's likely the 81-year-old pope required a limited travel schedule. "I hope it doesn't mean they'll win the World Series."

There had been speculation that the pontiff would come to the city in April just before another big Hub sporting event, the Boston Marathon, and there had been a behind-the-scenes lobbying bid to convince him to stop by.

Echoing a strong pitch by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, former Vatican Ambassador Raymond L. Flynn visited the Vatican last month and lobbied for a papal appearance, partly to celebrate the Archdiocese of Boston's bicentennial.

Flynn pitched a Boston visit as a chance for the pope to help the archdiocese heal wounds left by the sexual abuse crisis.

"It certainly would have been an opportunity to reach out to victims and their families and address that issue," Flynn said.

The former Boston mayor, stopping short of calling the pope's pass a mistake, said he also told top officials at the Holy See that "only the pope could really effectively begin the healing process."

O'Malley yesterday was mum on the snub, saying in a statement, "We are blessed by the news of the plans for Pope Benedict's visit to the United States next spring.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday shrugged off questions, saying he wasn't even aware a papal visit was anticipated in Boston.

Peter Borre, co-chairman of the Council of Parishes, a group critical of the Catholic hierarchy, said top archdiocese officials had plans drawn up for Benedict's arrival in Boston.

"As to why there was a decision not to visit, Boston is the poster child for a dysfunctional archdiocese," Borre said. "It's viewed as the beginning point of the sexual abuse scandal, and Boston has had the most massive parish closing program in the history of the Catholic Church in America. The conclusion drawn was there's too much in Boston that smells of controversy. Best to avoid it."

Benedict arrives in the United States April 15 for a five-day visit, during which he'll speak at the United Nations, visit Ground Zero and meet with President Bush. He will lead two public Masses at the new National Stadium in Washington on April 17, and Yankee Stadium on April 20.

Flynn considers the Hub's last papal visit to be "the single greatest day in the city of Boston's history." The late Pope John Paul II made a whirlwind tour of the Hub on Oct. 1, 1979.


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