Requests to attend the mass Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to say in Washington in mid-April exceed the supply of tickets by three fold, the United States bishops conference said Thursday. ( dpa )
The pope is to visit the United States from April 15-20, with stops in New York and Washington. A speech before the United Nations General Assembly on April 18 is expected to be the centre of the papal visit.
Benedict is also scheduled to celebrate crowded masses in two baseball stadiums - on April 17 at Nationals Park in Washington and on April 20 at Yankee Stadium in New York.
Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl said the great demand for tickets to see the Holy Father in Washington - at an event where 45,000 people are expected - "shows how popular the pope is."
"We have received requests from all over the world," Wuerl added.
However, he stressed that the tickets will be distributed within the US. Every diocese in the country will have representation at the event, and the ticket distribution among the dioceses in each stadium was established in a draw to avoid trouble.
The archbishop said Catholic Church authorities will continue to look for ways to avoid tickets being resold on the Internet.
The pope will say mass alongside priests from across the United States, Wuerl said. He added that "the youth, students, the elderly" of the US will share space with Benedict.
Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio said the pope's message will be one "of peace and human rights."
Wuerl said Benedict will not dwell on "a single issue that is new," but will instead "affirm" longstanding messages of the Catholic Church.
One of the open questions around the papal visit was whether Benedict will refer to the use of torture, particularly after the CIA admitted using waterboarding against detainees. The method is considered torture by all human rights organizations but not by President George W Bush's government.
The US bishops conference has spoken out against waterboarding and favoured Senator John McCain's proposal to broaden military regulations - which clearly define torture - to other branches of the US government.
Wuerl and Broglio said Benedict will have a "fully realistic" sense of the country by the time he visits, because preparatory reports included "everything, good news and bad news."