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Where to See Pope Francis When He Visits DC

DC is the first stop on the pope's three-city tour of America.
Where to See Pope Francis When He Visits DC
Photo by Giulio Napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis will visit DC September 22-24, and he’ll keep a busy schedule during his 48 hours in town. But area residents might catch a glimpse of the pope (in his Popemobile, of course) as he moves between events and appearances: church visits, greeting President Obama at the White House, speaking to Congress. Here’s where he’ll be during his whirlwind visit:

Tuesday, September 22

4 PM Pope Francis will touch down in the late afternoon at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday, flying directly from a three-day visit to Cuba. Though this is the pope’s first trip to the US, he’s been to Cuba three times, and he helped reconcile relations between the country and the United States.

Wednesday, September 23

9:15 AM Francis will begin his morning at the White House, where a Welcoming Ceremony will commence on the South Lawn. The pope will most likely give a speech and will meet with President Obama privately. Francis will be the third pope to visit the White House, after John Paul II in 1979 and Benedict XVI in 2008.

11 AM: Following his visit with the president, Francis will get in the popemobile and ride in a short parade around the Ellipse and National Mall. The horseshoe-shaped route runs down 17th St., Northwest, between E St. and Constitution Ave., down Constitution, and finally back up 15th St. Tickets are not required, but those hoping for a glimpse of the pope will need to pass through security perimeters to access viewing areas on the Ellipse and Mall. The entrances are at:

  • East of the Ellipse on Constitution Avenue
  • West of the Ellipse on Constitution Avenue
  • East of the Washington Monument near Jefferson Drive and 15th St., Northwest
  • West of the Washington Monument near 17th St., Northwest

The short parade route could still attract hundreds of thousands of spectators. The security gates will be open from 4 to 10 AM. Spectators are allowed to bring food and drink in disposable containers, but not reusable ones—not exactly a policy in alignment with Francis’s strong environmental message—as well as signs and banners. Other objects, like selfie sticks, are prohibited.

11:30 AM Francis will arrive at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Northwest DC. There, he will pray the midday prayer with bishops from the United States. This event will most likely be private, but you may be able to catch a glimpse of the pope on Rhode Island Avenue, northwest.

4:15 PM The pope will attend an afternoon outdoor mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception–the same church John Paul II and Benedict XVI visited. Here, he will canonize Spanish missionary priest Junipero Serra–the first-ever canonization to take place on American soil. The site plans to accommodate around 25,000 people, and tickets will be distributed through local parishes.

The push to declare Junipero Serra a saint was met with some resistance. In the late 1700s, Serra brought Christianity to an area of the United States then known as “New Spain” (a region in modern-day California). Some protesting Native Americans claim his mission was not only brutal but lethal, leading to the deaths of many through the spread of disease. Proponents of canonization revel in the idea of the United States’ first Hispanic saint, and hope it will counter any charges of Anglocentrism in the Catholic Church.

Large viewing screens will broadcast the mass on Catholic University of America’s campus, which is adjacent to the Basilica.

Thursday, September 24

9:20 AM Another first will take place at the Capitol Thursday morning, as Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress. He will be the first pontiff to address both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

11:15 AM Francis will head to Saint Patrick’s Church downtown. He will meet with several clients of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese, and provide a blessing, greetings, and words of encouragement. Shortly after, he will cross a courtyard that connects Saint Patrick’s Church to the headquarters of the Catholic Charities, and may be seen from the building’s doors on G Street (across from the Martin Luther King Library). Here, Francis will meet with more clients through the St. Maria Meals Program of the Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington. A lunch will be set up there, but it’s not open to the public.

4 PM Pope Francis will depart from Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base and arrive in New York at 5 PM.

Details regarding papal routes and ticketing information are still being worked out, the Archdiocese of Washington says. You can stay in the loop by signing up for the archdiocese’s papal visit alerts.

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