Saturday, 2:15 PM
Pope Benedict XVI touched down here at Andrews Air Force Base at about 3:50 p.m., and is now en route to the nunciature, the home of his ambassador to Washington, where he will spend the night.
He was greeted under a cloudless sky by a crowd of about 1,000 folks, many of them Air Force employees and their families, but also a lot of kids from a local Catholic high school, Archbishop McNamara, who had spent the day waiting on several reviewing stands set up along the tarmac.
The Alitalia plane dubbed Shepherd One, adorned with US and Vatican flags on its nose, taxied along a runway and pulled up in front of the reviewing stands precisely at 4 p.m., as scheduled. An honor guard and a variety of prelates and other dignitaries lined a red carpet rolled up to the plane's forward door. The pope, dressed in white robes and clutching his skullcap in his hand lest it blow away, waved and smiled. President and Mrs. Bush, joined by their daughter Jenna, greeted him as he descended. As he neared the crowd, he wiggled his fingers as he waved, but he did not approach the reviewing stands, and he made no public remarks.
The crowd was enthusiastic, waving flags and cheering. "It was amazing,'' said Vincent Harrington, a 16-year-old high school junior who was taking photos of the pope on his cellphone. "I got so many good pictures.''
The pope has no public events tonight. Tomorrow, his 81st birthday, he is to meet with President Bush at the White House, where as many as 12,000 people are to gather on the lawn to greet him -- the largest crowd at the White House during the Bush administration. The pope then is to take his first popemobile ride in the United States, to the nunciature, where he will have a birthday lunch; tomorrow late afternoon he is to meet with the US bishops.
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff
For all blog entries on the papal visit, go here.
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