Pope preparations consume Capitol

Just about every organization that handles the Capitol’s infrastructure is involved with the planning, including the Speaker’s office, U.S. Capitol Police, the House and Senate sergeants at arms, the Architect of the Capitol and congressional press galleries.
Multiple organizers described the pope’s visit as “a State of the Union address on steroids.”


Months of preparations for the pope’s visit to the Capitol are coming to a head, with decisions being made on viewing screens for the public, media coverage, security and public access to the Capitol’s West Front.


About 50,000 people are expected to come to the Capitol grounds to watch Francis’s Sept. 24 address, the first ever delivered by a pope to Congress. Many more are likely to gather on the National Mall; a Secret Service spokeswoman declined to provide an expected number, citing security protocol.


A series of meetings between congressional entities charged with managing the event have taken place over the August recess, participants said. Walk-throughs for TV networks are already happening, nearly a month out from the speech.


All this planning — which doesn’t include additional layers of preparation by the Secret Service, National Park Service and local D.C. agencies — underscores the level of detail needed for what will ultimately be a relatively brief visit to the Capitol.


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