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Everybody wants to meet Pope Francis on his U.S. trip, but few will get one-on-one time
Everybody, it seems, wants to meet Pope Francis, who makes his first trip to the U.S. at the end of September. But only a chosen few will get one-on-one time with the pontiff, and celebrity may not influence the outcome. - photo by Mark Kellner
Stephen Colbert, who away from the television cameras is a dedicated Roman Catholic who teaches Sunday School in his suburban New Jersey parish, wants to meet Pope Francis when the pontiff visits the United States later this month. He really, really wants to meet the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, media reports indicate.

"Colbert has reportedly been moving heaven and earth to try to snag a few minutes with the pontiff, who visits Washington, New York and Philadelphia from Sept. 22-27," Religion News Service reporter David Gibson wrote. "Thatd be a season-making score, to be sure; yet it may be beyond even Colberts impressive influence."

Gibson noted that Colbert, who departed the Comedy Central cable channel earlier this year and has now succeeded David Letterman as host of CBS-TV's "The Late Show," spoke with the Rev. Thomas Rosica of Canada's Salt and Light Catholic television network. Father Rosica, who also is a liason for the Vatican's press office, asked Colbert what question the talk show host would ask Pope Francis.

I would ask him how love leads him to joy, or does love lead him to joy? Colbert said. Colbert added he'd ask about the pope's view of being "a fool for Christ," a term used by St. Paul in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians 4:10.

The jury is out on whether Colbert will obtain the ultimate media "get" in scoring an on-camera interview with Pope Francis, but others already know they'll get to be up-close-and-personal with him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a private meeting with Pope Francis at the United Nations, The Associated Press reported. The pope's U.N. visit, the fifth by a pope, will also be the shortest, clocking in at 2.5 hours, according to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's U.N. representative.

In a separate dispatch, the wire service also reported "President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will lead the welcoming committee for Pope Francis when he arrives in Washington."

The president rarely goes to Andrews Air Force Base in nearby Maryland to welcome arriving dignitaries, but the Obamas are following a pattern set by President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush, who went to Andrews when Pope Benedict XVI arrived there in 2008.

Obama will also host Pope Francis at the White House, and among those selected to be at the executive mansion will be 23-year-old Andrew Ledesma, who writes a blog called "The Gay Catholic." According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Ledesma wrote to the White House hoping for an invite.

Prior to meeting a range of leaders and addressing a joint meeting of Congress, Pope Francis will meet privately with House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has issued an annual invitation to every pope to visit Congress during his 24 years in the House, Politico said.

"House and Senate leaders will join Boehner towards the end of the meeting to welcome" the pontiff before the address, the website reported.

In New York City, two dozen people already know they'll have a face-to-face encounter with Pope Francis during a stop in the Manhattan neighborhood of East Harlem on Sept. 25, WPIX-TV reported.

"To be able to meet Pope Francis is just amazing," Odette Manzano, a mother of three, told the television station. "And with him speaking Spanish, and my language is Spanish, to meet him and greet him in my native language is like a dream come true."

The television station reported Catholic Charities has set up a website where people can post recorded video greetings to Pope Francis, perhaps the next best thing to saying hello in person.

Former MSNBC host Abby Huntsman recorded a greeting, as did former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a candidate for the 2016 Democratic party presidential nomination, and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
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