The Pope and his addressing the issue of clergy and sexual abuse by priests.
Traffic chaos, armed police lining streets, security screens atchurch entrances, scuba divers in New York's East River, back-packsbanned for pedestrians, no-flight zones - it is business as usual asthe US prepares to welcome Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow at the start ofhis American visit.
The pontiff will carry a messageof peace in the Middle East and around the world as he is met byPresident George Bush at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, at thebeginning of a six-day tour that will see him address political leadersin Washington, New York and the UN. He will also appear before crowdsof the faithful at the Nationals stadium in Washington on Thursday andon Sunday at the Yankees stadium in New York.
There will be astrong multi-faith dimension to the visit, Pope Benedict's first USvisit since he became head of the Catholic church in 2005. Meetingshave been arranged with Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews - thoughSikhs will not attend, as they would be required to take off theircustomary ceremonial daggers.
Security will be particularly tightgiven the latest pronouncement from Osama bin Laden. Last month arecording of al-Qaida leader was circulated in which he accused thepontiff of waging a "new crusade" against Muslims.
US homelandsecurity chiefs said they had not changed plans in the light of the BinLaden audiotape, but they were mindful of what he said.
Therehave also been other recent threats from Islamist groups over thePope's reference in 2006 to a medieval text critical of Muhammad.
Thistrip is a crucial opportunity for the pontiff to connect with hisAmerican flock, the third largest in the Catholic world with more than67 million followers. Perhaps more importantly, this trip is also achance for him to step out of the shadow of his globetrotting,media-friendly predecessor, John Paul II.
The late pontiffvisited the US seven times over 20 years - the last time was in 1999.During those visits he met six presidents; secured a vast and loyalfollowing among the faithful; kissed tarmac; and released doves intothe air. It is a tough act to follow.
The quieter, more scholarlyPope Benedict is a man of words and letters. The pontiff, who turns 81tomorrow, was first introduced to the American public when he was headof the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and was charged withinvestigating paedophilia in churches worldwide, a scandal that hasparticularly rocked the US Catholic church, eroding its moralauthority, costing billions of dollars in compensation to the victimsand, in some cases, leading to dioceses filing for bankruptcy.
ThePope was accused at the time of failing to investigate abuse claims.During the emerging news on the scandals in December 2002, he said theallegations were part of a "planned campaign" that was "intentional,manipulated" with the aim of discrediting the church.
CardinalTarcisio Bertone, in an interview with the Associated Press, said thePope would deliver a message of trust and hope when he meets clergy inSt Patrick's Cathedral, New York.
Omitted from his schedule isBoston, the archdiocese at the centre of the controversy and once thestronghold of American Catholicism.
Despite the scandal, thenumber of US Catholics is growing, boosted by the country's more recentwave of immigration. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishopssays around 39% of faithful in America are Hispanic. The bishopsestimate that by the next decade more than half of US Catholics will beHispanic.
During the New York stage of the visit, which coincideswith the start of the Jewish celebration of Passover, the Pope willmake the first visit by a pontiff to a synagogue in the US.
On Sunday, the last day of the trip, he will give prayers at Ground Zero for those who died in the 9/11 attacks.
He will also pray, some would say provocatively, for the redemption of "those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred".
Tuesday April 15
The Pope is greeted at Andrews Air Force Base by George and Laura Bush
10.30am Reconvenes with the Bushes on the south lawn of the White House. A private meeting follows with Bush
5.30pm Private prayer with US bishops at DC's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
10am Takes mass at the stadium of the Washington Nationals baseball team, in front of 45,000 people
5pm Speech on Catholic education at the Catholic University of America
6.30pm Inter-faith meeting with leaders of Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and other religions
10.45am Keynote address to the UN
6pm Prayer service with leaders of other Christian denominations at St Joseph's church in Manhattan
9.15am Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral
4.30pm Meeting with young Catholics at St Joseph seminary in Yonkers
9.30am Visit to Ground Zero, where he will lead prayers for the victims of 9/11
2.30pm Mass in front of 80,000 people at the New York Yankees baseball stadium in the Bronx
8pm Shepherd One, the Pope's plane, departs John F Kennedy airport bound for Rome
for a listing of alternate locations.