Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tracking Pope Francis into the US

Courtesy Popeemoji
This afternoon was spent tracking the arrival of the Holy Father's plane, with the call sign AZ4001, on Flightradar24. (Within the US, the Holy Father's aircraft, an American Airlines plane, will have the callsign "Shepherd One." According to that CNN piece, however, it's number will not be made public, and so it won't be trackable on public flight tracking websites.)

It was such an exciting moment, to realize that the Pope was over American Airspace!


The plane did several 360s over eastern North Carolina, just south of Greenville. Presumably, it made good time from Santiago de Cuba, and was waiting for the officially published landing time of 1600.

The plane is out of the holding pattern and descending
[This didn't prevent some from ascribing sinister motives: I first saw Catholic Vote say it (without attribution to the source in the headline) on Facebook, and then saw the link to the Atlantic that reported that the President was running late and had asked the Pope's flight to be delayed! (CV initially put it rather bluntly that Obama had ordered the Pope into a holding pattern, generating a number of outraged comments on Facebook). Both places have since updated their stories to indicated this was nothing untoward or impolite. The plane was early, and landed around 1600, and the President was waiting, with the Vice President, and several members of the U.S. hierarchy, to greet the Pope.]

I had a window open with the air traffic control feed for Potomac Approach via LiveATC. Around 345 pm I heard, "Alitalia four zero zero one heavy, cleared runway one left approach," and a confirmation  from the pilots! And then, "Alitalia four zero zero one heavy, contact Andrews tower!" A quick switch to the live feed from the Washington Post on YouTube (the source of all the following screenshots), after AZ4001 landed at Andrews Air Force Base.

He's on the ground! 

The first glimpse of the Holy Father on U.S. soil, to raucous cheers from the gathered crowds!

Ciao! Pope Francis drives away in a Fiat 500L, with SCV 1 plates. (The car looked so tiny in the midst of the giant vehicles in the rest of the motorcade!) 

An uncommon sight: POTUS hobnobbing with the U.S. Bishops. To the right of Michelle Obama is Cardinal Di Nardo of Houston. To the right of POTUS, looking rather short, Bishop Loverde of Arlington; in front of him, Bishop Holley of Washington DC. The handshake is with Archbishop Lori of Baltimore.
I cheered and clapped loudly at the first glimpse of the Pope (luckily, almost everyone else had left for the day at the office ...:)) ... the figure of the Pope, the visible center of unity of the Church, the Vicar of Christ ... it arouses such a deep filial affection and love in a Catholic's heart! (I recall feeling exactly the same on seeing Pope Benedict on television during his 2008 visit to the U.S.)

It was an exciting few hours, and it was fun sharing it on Twitter and Facebook, and chatting on WhatsApp with my friend Harry (with the State Dept. at our Embassy in New Delhi), a fellow devout Catholic and aviation buff, who was up late being as nerdy as ever.

PETER IS HERE! Welcome Holy Father!

Please pray for a safe visit, and that the Lord shower many graces on our country as we pay close attention to the Vicar of Christ's words and actions while he is with us.

UPDATE: The full-transcript of the Holy Father's remarks to the press on the flight from Cuba are now available. Here's one little bit:
I’m sure that I haven't said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church. On another flight, a colleague asked me if I had reached out a hand to the popular movements and asked me, “But is the Church going to follow you?” I told him, “I’m the one following the Church.” And in this it seems that I’m not wrong. I believe that I never said a thing that wasn’t the social doctrine of the Church. Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little “to the left”, but it would be an error of explanation. No, my doctrine on this, in Laudato si', on economic imperialism, all of this, is the social doctrine of the Church. And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.

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