Correction appended, Sept. 24, 2015
The history of papal visits to the United States is even briefer than one might expect. When Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. next week, he will do so only 50 years—almost exactly—after Paul VI became the first pontiff ever to make an official trip to the country. The same trip also made Paul the first Pope to visit the United Nations, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The Pope’s visit with Lyndon Johnson was to take place in the Waldorf-Astoria’s nine-room Suite 35-A, which is always reserved for the President. Johnson, who had spent a good deal of time studying a handy little briefing book from the State Department on Vatican protocol (he didn’t have to kiss the papal ring because he is a chief of state), would be only the fourth U.S. Chief Executive to meet a Pope,” TIME noted that week. “During their get-together the main subject of conversation, with two interpreters on hand to make it clear, would be what Lyndon likes to call ‘that little five-letter word’—peace.”
In the intervening years, Pope John Paul II set the record for visits with five trips to the States between 1979 and 1999. (He also had two long layovers in Alaska, in 1981 and 1984, but we’re not counting those.) Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit in 2008, making Pope John Paul I—who held the position for about a month before his untimely death—the only pope in the last half-century not to come to the U.S. during his tenure.
Read TIME’s 1965 coverage of Paul VI’s visit, here in the TIME Vault: When in New York
Correction: A caption in the original version of this gallery misstated where Pope John Paul II was photographed in San Francisco. It was at Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
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