WASHINGTON – Guess who's not coming to dinner?
Pope Benedict XVI — he's not attending a White House dinner in his honor on Wednesday.
President Bush will go out to Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday to welcome the pope on his first visit to the United States since he was elected pontiff in 2005. On Wednesday there will be a formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House with up to 12,000 guests.
White House planners are anxious about getting that many people through the metal detectors and in place for the splashy ceremony at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Afterwards, the president and the pope will meet in the Oval Office. Later that day, the pope will attend a prayer service with U.S. bishops.
Wednesday night's dinner, hosted by the president, will be in the East Room, which normally contains little furniture and traditionally is used for large gatherings such as news conferences, bill-signing ceremonies, awards presentations and after-dinner entertainment.
"It's in honor of his visit," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. "There will be leaders from the Catholic community from all over the country who are in town for that visit."
He said he did not know why the pope would not attend.