Pope Paul VI giving mass and sermon of peace at Yankee Stadium during historic visit. New York, 1965.
Pope Paul VI giving mass and sermon of peace at Yankee Stadium during historic visit. New York, 1965.Bill Eppridge—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Pope Paul VI giving mass and sermon of peace at Yankee Stadium during historic visit. New York, 1965.
President Lyndon Johnson and Pope Paul VI, the first Roman Catholic Pontiff to journey to the Western hemisphere, bid farewell to each other following their hour-long conference at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, New York, October 4, 1965. The Pope was in New York to address the United Nations.
President Carter with Pope John Paul ll during visit to Washington DC, October 7, 1979.
Cardinal Humberto S. Mederios and first lady Rosalyn Carter greeted Pope John Paul II on his arrival at Logan Airport. Boston, October 1, 1979.
Pope John Paul II (born poses with American Bishop (and later Archibishop) John R. Quinn (center) during a visit to Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, September 18, 1987. With them in the background are Italian Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli (left), Italian Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States (and later Cardinal) Pio Laghi (second right), and Spanish Archbishop Substitute for General Affairs (and later Cardinal) Eduardo Martinez Somalo (right).
Pope John Paul II in front of a huge peace dove in a New Orleans' stadium prior to celebrate an open-air mass. September 12, 1987.
US President Bill Clinton points out people in the crowd to Pope John Paul II on August, 12, 1993 in Denver, Colorado.
Frank Rocha of Amarillo, Texas, weeps as he is blessed by Pope John Paul II at Denver's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on August 14, 1993. Rocha was among 300 delegates from the World Youth Day who attended mass with the Pope.
Pope John Paul II waves to the faithful upon his arrival to Camden Yards, Baltimore, for a mass on October 8, 1995.
Pope John Paul II with members of the United Nations International School choir during his visit to the UN in New York, October 5, 1995.
Pope John Paul II waves to the crowd as he arrives to say Mass in his bullet-proof "Popemobile" in St. Louis, January 27, 1999.
Pope John Paul II waves as US President Bill Clinton applauds during an arrival ceremony on January 26, 1999 at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri.
Pope Benedict XVI reacts to the cheering crowd as he stands with U.S. President George W. Bush upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, April 15, 2008 in Camp Springs, Maryland.
Pope Benedict XVI arrives to celebrate Mass April 17, 2008 at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.
Pope Paul VI giving mass and sermon of peace at Yankee Stadium during historic visit. New York, 1965.
Bill Eppridge—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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See Photos of Every Papal Visit to the U.S. in History

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

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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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