Pope Benedict landed at Andrews Air Force Base this afternoon to being his United States tour. Breaking with tradition, President Bush traveled to the airport to greet his Holiness on the tarmac.
Hoping that the Pope's plane -- dubbed Shepherd One -- is like the President's plane? John Allen says don't get your hopes up. But don't worry; the infamous Popemobile is expected to make an appearance.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press points out the difficult job facing the State Department in guarding one of the most popular religious figures on Earth:
WASHINGTON — Nancy Brinker looks more relaxed than most people do before the doorbell rings and the dinner party guests arrive. And she's got just a few hours to sort out the final details before Pope Benedict XVI arrives for only the second papal visit ever to the White House.
The pope's visit comes the same week as two others for which Brinker's State Department protocol office handles all the details _ official visits to Washington of the British prime minister and South Korean president.
"Something's going to fall out," Brinker said matter-of-factly in an interview with The Associated Press. "If something goes wrong, just apologize immediately, get right on it and fix it right there."
Brinker is the woman in charge of making sure the popemobile rides smoothly down Pennsylvania Avenue, not to mention the delicate matter of who gets to stay at Blair House, the presidential guest house.
Brinker, a successful Republican fundraiser and friend of President Bush, left a life of considerable comfort to work long hours as the U.S. chief of protocol. The job is kind of a clearinghouse for pomp and circumstance, from motorcade choreography and sleeping arrangements (South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will stay at Blair House) down to official gifts (who gets pins or pens? Which lucky few get something fancier?)
Her biggest worry this week: A crowd of up to 12,000 at the White House on Wednesday morning for the pope's official arrival ceremony.
Before that, Bush is breaking with his own protocol by picking up the pontiff at the airport. Foreign leaders often greet Bush, and even lower-ranking members of the U.S. government, at the airport when they arrive, but Bush has never accorded anyone that honor. In fact, no president has done so at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., just outside Washington, which is the typical landing spot for modern leaders.
The Vatican strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, though little of that is likely to be on display during a six-day visit to Washington and New York City.
The pope is not expected to stray from a tightly organized schedule. The Vatican well remembers Pope John Paul II's first visit to the United States in 1979, when a nun caused a stir by publicly questioning the pontiff about whether women could become priests.
The pontiff will be honored with a fancy dinner at the White House, although the White House has said he won't be able to attend; he will address leaders in Roman Catholic higher education, speak at the U.N., visit ground zero and hold two stadium Masses before leaving Sunday night. Brinker's office will oversee the entire trip.
"It is a very important visit just by the nature of the constituency he represents," Brinker said. "I think what it represents to the American people is the message that we are a values-based society, that faith plays an important role in all of our lives."
Brinker is the founder of the breast cancer charity now known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, named for her only sister who died of the disease in 1980, at 36.
"In those days you couldn't say the word 'breast' in newspapers or on TV,'" Brinker said.
The foundation, best known for the Race for the Cure fundraising runs, has raised $1 billion for breast cancer research and prevention.