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Washington Basilica Prepares for First Canonization Mass


Just a few days before Pope Francis arrives in Washington, preparations for the first canonization mass in the United States are well underway.

At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Donald Wuerl toured the site to check on the progress.

“When we come here next we’re going to be surrounded by over 25,000 people just to see and pray with our Holy Father," he told reporters.

View inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2015. (Photo: S. Lemaire / VOA)

View inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2015. (Photo: S. Lemaire / VOA)

And competition for those seats is fierce.

"This is one of the largest Catholic churches in the world and it can’t hold the number of people who want to be there," he explained.

It will be a mass of firsts.

"This Holy Father is the first Pope from the New World. He’s coming for the first time to the United States to do for the first time, a canonization," Cardinal Wuerl said.

Pope Francis memorabilia is front and center in the gift shop at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where the pope is scheduled to canonize 18th-century Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra on Sept. 23, 2015. (PhotoL M. Bush / VOA)

Pope Francis memorabilia is front and center in the gift shop at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where the pope is scheduled to canonize 18th-century Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra on Sept. 23, 2015. (PhotoL M. Bush / VOA)

And in the Basilica gift shop, there are any number of ways to remember that moment.

“It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that the Pope is coming here," admitted Basilica gift shop emplooyee Angela Devanadera.

“Hopefully everything will be in place and ready to go,” she added confidently.

The constant activity is a reminder that the Papal visit is only days away.

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    Katherine Gypson

    Katherine Gypson is a reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C.  Prior to joining VOA in 2013, Katherine produced documentary and public affairs programming in Afghanistan, Tunisia and Turkey. She also produced and co-wrote a 12-episode road-trip series for Pakistani television exploring the United States during the 2012 presidential election. She holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from American University. Follow her @kgyp

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