Pat Korten
Vice President of Communications

April 16, 2008

Pat Korten - White House welcome

Today's welcome for Benedict XVI at the White House was an extraordinary affair for many reasons. Usually, visiting heads of state are welcomed in front of a few hundred people assembled on the South Lawn of the White House. Today's welcome featured the largest-ever welcome crowd, at least 12,000 wildly enthusiastic guests, two bands, and a contingent of Fourth Degree Knights appearing at a White House ceremony for the very first time. The weather was magnificent - spring in Washington is the very best time of the year - sunny and warm, but not too warm.

The pope's remarks, delivered in perfect if accented English, were right on the mark. "I come as friend, a preacher of the Gospel, and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society," he said. And his conclusion, a hearty "God bless America," was perfect. It's easy to become jaded with the pomp and ceremony of Washington - having lived here for some 33 years before joining the Supreme Council staff I thought I'd seen it all. But I hadn't. Not until today. And I'll never forget it.

Supreme Knight - Welcome to our blog

As head of the Knights of Columbus, I welcome you to the blog we have created for the historic trip of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. Although he visited this country as a cardinal, this is Pope Benedicts first U.S. visit since becoming pope three years ago, and American Catholics are very excited to have him here in the United Sates.

As the popes visit approaches, and important events of the next several days (April 15-20) unfold, I invite you to post your comments, questions and observations, and above all, to listen to the popes message for us, and to keep the success of Pope Benedicts trip in your prayers.

I think it is a wonderful opportunity for this country that Benedict is coming to meet and introduce himself personally to the American people and I know that many will be moved and inspired by the message he has prepared for this country.

A poll that the Knights of Columbus recently commissioned with the Marist Institute shows that although only 25% of Americans are Catholic, 75% of Americans are interested in hearing from him a spiritual message that will touch their daily lives. In addition, the poll indicated that a majority of Americans view Benedict favorably, but a significant portion of the population does not know much about him. This trip is an opportunity for the pope and the people to connect and get to know each other better. I can confidently predict that the personal holiness and genuine openness of Pope Benedict will touch a multitude of hearts and win the approval of many more Americans.

Before opening this blog to your input, allow me to say a few words about the Knights of Columbus. For more than 125 years of our history, the Knights of Columbus has been in solidarity with the Church both locally and globally. We now have more than 1.7 million members worldwide, more than 1 million of them in the United States, making us the largest Catholic family fraternal organization in the world. As Knights, we will listen attentively to the Holy Father and seek to put his message into action for the good of our nation and our communities.

I welcome all of you who visit this blog to post your comments.

April 15, 2008

Pat Korten - Arrival at Andrews AFB

Dateline: Andrews Air Force Base, 2:30 pm Tuesday, April 15 - As Pope Benedict's Boeing 777 jet ("Shepherd One") nears the end of its journey from Rome, and the crowd of greeters fills the bleachers here, I am beginning to grasp the historical nature of what's about to occur.

It's not the first papal visit to the United States, of course. And it's not Benedict's first U.S. visit, either. But it is the first time that the President has ever come out to Andrews to greet a visiting head of state. And it is a measure of how close U.S.-Vatican relations have become in the 25 short years since formal diplomatic relations were first established under President Reagan.

The Pope, we are told, admires America both because it rescued Europe from the horors of the Nazi Germany of his youth, and because of the formula we have developed for ensuring religious freedom - a system that encourages religious faith to flourish without government involvement or direct support.

President Bush, a Methodist who much admires this Pope and much that is Catholic as well, returns the Pope's admiration with his own. It's a wonderful note on which to begin this week's visit, and a spectacular Spring day in Washington to boot.

I wish all our readers could be here with us!