More than 45, 000 people were on-hand in Nationals Stadium to enthusiastically greet Pope Benedict XVI.
Faithfulness to Catholic teaching and life underscored the Holy Father's ministry on Thursday to a crowd of 45,000 at Nationals Stadium. This faithfulness, he emphasized is one of the heart as well as the head.
WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) - Today history was made as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his first Mass on American soil at Nationals Stadium in Washington D.C.
More than 45, 000 people were on-hand to greet the Holy Father, who arrived by Popemobile at 9:30 am EDT.
Entering from the tunnel behind center field, the Pope made a circle around the inside of the stadium with a trumpet fanfare. The crowd was on their feet cheering and waving small yellow papal flags. The air was electric with excitement that the Vicar of Christ was here with us.
The choir of 570 singers began singing “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” as the Pope made his entrance. Everyone in the stadium soon joined in.
Prior to the entry of Pope Benedict, the procession of 250 bishops began at 9:15 am, taking their seats on either side of the Sanctuary and Altar erected at center field. Behind the altar a gold curtain hung as the backdrop for a large 14-foot tall crucifix, borrowed from St. Mark the Evangelist Church, Hyattsville Maryland.
While the Pope entered the first time to cheers and shouts from the crowd, when the procession began, the crowd hushed, knowing this was not the time for cheering but worshiping Almighty God. Emerging from the home team dugout, the Holy Father was preceded in the processional by his cardinals as they made their way across the infield toward the temporary sanctuary erected especially for today’s Mass.
The liturgy took on a strong multi-cultural flavor as the first reading, from the Book of Acts, was read in Spanish. Later in the Mass, the Prayers of the Faithful were offered in English, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese, Igbo, and Spanish.
Pope Benedict's homily, like his other messages during this visit, covered a wide spectrum of subjects but always focused on his key apostolic message – “Christ Our Hope.” His message was basic, putting forth a call to faithfulness on the part of United States Catholics and challenging them to a passionate embrace of their relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
"I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom."
As he did on the plane trip from Rome and with the US Bishops, the Holy Father referred to the abuse scandal that had rocked the American Church.
"It is in the context of this hope born of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse.
“It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children - whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure - can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue.
“Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness."
Applause erupted from the crowd when, at the end of his homily, Pope Benedict finished his thoughts in Spanish. The Holy Father’s entire homily appears at the end of this article.
Totally unexpected by those in attendance, following his homily, the pontiff lead the people in a renewal of their baptismal vows, a familiar practice at baptisms and the Easter Vigil. After the Mass, several individuals commented on the significance for United States Catholics that, while he is here during Eastertide, he would lead us in that major Easter theme of reexamination and reaffirmation of our commitment to Christ.
For the most of those in attendance, nothing seemed more stirring than the sound of 45, 000 voices all singing the “Sanctus” together in the Eucharistic prayer.
During the distribution of Holy Communion, more than 40 thousand people received communion at various stations where Priests and Deacons were assigned. At 4am Thursday morning, a full six hours before the main Mass, a special mass by clergy from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. During this liturgy 277 ciboria with ...
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