Blog: ABC7's Alan Krashesky on pope's U.S. visit

Friday, April 18 - 9:17 p.m.

Pope Benedict had quite a travel day today: Flying on an Alitalia jetliner from Andrews Air Force Base (Washington, DC) to JFK Airport in New York, then boarding a military helicopter for a short flight from JFK to a heliport in Lower Manhattan - and finally - riding in an armored limousine from the heliport up Manhattan's East Side to the headquarters of the United Nations.

At 81 years old, he's showing no signs of tiring from his journey to America.

His speech to the U.N. focused on human rights and religious freedom. He also spoke about his concerns regarding countries that take matters into their own hands and undermine the collective force of the U.N. to solve the world's problems. No countries were specifically mentioned by name, but as is common in the Pope's speeches, people do a lot of reading between the lines.

We spoke with Francis Cardinal George today about that meeting between the Pope and victims of sexual abuse. He says that the bishops had debated such a meeting for months, but there were concerns over how it could best be carried out - and who would be involved. When Pope Benedict came to town, he took matters into his own hands and made the decision: the meeting would take place with a handful of victims from the Boston Archdiocese.

It will be interesting to see what lasting impact that meeting has on healing the wounds of the scandal. Survivors and their advocates say that the names of all pedophile priests should be publicly released. Cardinal George says he believes the Chicago Archdiocese does that. The victims' groups want bishops to be punished, if they are found to be mismanaging cases of present or past abuse. On that matter, the Cardinal says that bishops are accountable to the Pope and to each other.

On Saturday the Pope will celebrate mass with priests at St. Patrick's Cathedral. This is expected to be a mass of healing and encouragement for priests. It's often been pointed out that a relatively small number of priests were responsible for the abuse scandal, yet all priests have felt the damage to their reputations.

The Pope will likely address that. We'll share his words with you on ABC 7 News.

Thursday, April 17

Would you be willing to drive across the country just on the chance that you would catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI?

ABC 7's Stacey Baca found a group of Catholics from Chicago and Peoria who did just that. They were thrilled when their persistence paid off and the Pope passed right in front of them in his popemobile.

On the campus of The Catholic University of America, we watched as lines of people snaked for a considerable distance, waiting to pass through airport-style security checks. They were those who considered themselves fortunate, because they held tickets for the Pope's arrival at the university. Those security checks impacted us as well as we prepared our reports for ABC 7. It turned out that our live shot locations (where the cameras are situated for reporters to be on-camera) were in one security zone while the building where we write and edit our reports was in another. You couldn't get from one location to the other unless you passed through the same lengthy security screening process as everyone else. That made for some challenging moments as reporters and photographers and editors scrambled around the campus trying to meet their deadlines. It was somewhat like running in an airport to catch a flight - when you know you're late - again and again.

On Thursday, Stacey and her photographer Jim Mastri will be covering the Pope as he celebrates mass at the new Nationals ballpark. While the mass doesn't technically begin until about 10am, Stacey and Jim will be boarding a media shuttle bus around 2:30 in the morning, so they can get the proper security clearance and get inside the ballpark to cover the story.

I'll be traveling with another of our photographers, Rich Hillengas, as we move on to New York City in preparation for the Pope's arrival there on Friday morning.

Hope you'll find our coverage - both in Washington and New York - worthwhile viewing. See you on ABC 7 - and here on the web.

Tuesday, April 15 - 7 p.m.

Alan's Video Blog: An update from behind the scenes in D.C.

Monday, April 14 - 8:24 p.m.

For months, the nation's capital has been preparing for this visit and now it's here. Washington is accustomed to the comings and goings of foreign dignitaries, but when the Pope comes to town, even this city has to stop and take notice. President Bush will travel out to Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday to be there personally when Shepherd One (as the Pope's plane is called) touches down about 3pm Chicago-time. That gesture alone places the visit by this guest in a category of its own.

The logistics of ensuring the Pope's safety and yet allowing his mobility are mind-boggling. I spoke with a staff member at the Catholic University of America (where 3 of the papal events will be held in Washington) who told me that the Secret Service has been working on their campus since December. As news reporters covering the events, we have all gone through checks by law enforcement and the credentialing process is extensive. In fact, each venue where the Pope will be present requires a separate credential. There is no "one-pass" to see the Pope.

The challenge is that this is a pastoral visit by Pope Benedict XVI, and as such, it's necessary that he be able to interact with people.

Journalists from across the country and around the world are here in Washington to cover these events. Villages of TV satellite trucks have formed at the major papal venues.

Catholics and non-Catholics alike are waiting to hear what message Pope Benedict wants to share with the United States. Our team will be here bringing you those words as they're spoken. Hope you'll continue to join us – here on the website – and on ABC 7 News.

Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.