Chicago hockey great hopes to meet pope

April 16, 2008 1:08:20 PM PDT
One of those guests planning to attend is from Chicago - former Blackhawks star and hockey hall of famer Stan Mikita. Although he's Lutheran, his wife and children are Roman Catholic.

"It would be nice to meet a gentleman of such power in the world. I've met some presidents, fortunately, and I've met a couple of the Canadian prime ministers and so on. And I've never met a pope," said Mikita.

This is only the second time in history that a pontiff has been to the White House. The first trip was in 1979 when Pope John Paul II met with President Jimmy Carter.

Pope Benedict's second Popemobile trip will be Wednesday afternoon as the Pontiff makes his way to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

When the Pope is there, he will pause and pray and move to the Crypt Church. It is the heart of the shrine. It features the church's unique relationship with Mary, the mother of God.

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George will then greet Pope Benedict. They will go to the altar, where a Vespers, or evening prayer, will be held with the U.S. Bishops.

The shrine is next to Catholic University of America, where preparations were underway Tuesday.

"All the work is done. And I've been saying to staff, faculty and to students on campus, now's our time to enjoy the fruit of our labor, and we can't wait until the pope arrives," said President David O'Connell, Catholic University of America.

Gardeners on campus are planting yellow and white flowers - the papal colors. Just the thought of seeing the pope here thrills Roman Catholics and even those who don't follow the faith but hope to meet the religious leader.

"We were kind of thinking of maybe bringing him some kind of memento of Chicago. And the Blackhawks are not making a comeback, so I've requested a sweater to be flown in, but I'm not sure if they can get it here in time," said Mikita.

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