Pope Francis Arrives: 5 Unusual Details of His Visit
It's a big deal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2015 6:16 AM CDT
Updated Sep 22, 2015 6:49 AM CDT
Pope Francis greets a child during a meeting with a group of Cuban youth in Havana, Cuba.   (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – Pope Francis sets foot on US soil at 4pm today (full schedule here), and officials in DC, New York, and Philly are scrambling to ensure a smooth, safe stay. Here are five of the more unusual details of his visit:

  1. The visit has spurred one of the largest security operations in US history: The pope's five-day visit has received the rare designation of "National Special Security Event," the Washington Post reports, and the Secret Service-led security operation also involves the FBI, Coast Guard, Pentagon, and other agencies. Adding to the challenge: the pontiff's "proclivity to wade into public crowds," and the doubling-up of events. The 70th UN General Assembly and Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit are also on the docket.
  2. President Obama will meet him at the airport: When he arrives at Joint Base Andrews just outside DC, Obama will be there to greet him. This is actually a big deal. "It is a gesture the president has extended to virtually no other foreign visitor," observes the New York Times.

  1. No congressional handshakes: The pope's attendance at Thursday's joint session of Congress is a "sold-out" event, and those members who will be attending have received a "Please Behave Yourself" notice co-signed by John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, the Post reports. "Out of respect for the Pope's schedule and the expectation of a timely address, we respectfully request that you assist us by refraining from handshakes and conversations along and down the center aisle," the memo reads.
  2. There's a saintly sticking point: According to social media (and Vocativ), there's one major sticking point about Francis' visit to DC that's causing a ruckus: his expected canonization tomorrow of Junipero Serra, a controversial 18th-century missionary who's accused of enslaving and wiping out indigenous Native Americans and forcing conversions in California. More than 10,000 signatures have already been gathered on a MoveOn.org petition asking the pope to ditch his sainthood plans.
  3. There's a rookie at the social wheel: Deesha Dyer is the "rookie" planning what the New York Times calls "the 'Super Bowl' of social planning." The new White House social secretary, 37, is an ex-hip-hop reporter tasked with organizing not only every detail of Obama's visit with Pope Francis tomorrow, but also the meeting and state dinner with Xi later in the week, followed by a presidential appearance at the UN in New York.