Thursday, April 17, 2008

Context of This Hope

The Papal Mass this morning here in Washington, D.C., at Nationals Park was an amazing experience. The ballpark was packed with some 46,000 souls -- all intent on welcoming B16 and hearing his message of hope.

My old NCSC friend, Michelle Colby, and I were blessed to be seated on the field about 20 feet from the front row. If you were looking at the altar, we were in the second section to the left of the center aisle in which the processions took place.

(The political nerd in me feels compelled to share: we were about 15 feet catty corner from the seats of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito.)

The music used during the Mass was varied. The highlight was Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus" ("Bread of the Angels") sung by opera legend Placido Domingo at the end of Communion. I also was very moved by "Pange Lingua" -- another song during Communion. (The version performed was a composition of Paulist Father Ricky Manalo.)

This Mass likely will be most remembered for the pope's brilliant but somber homily during which he addressed the recent crisis in the Church due to the sexual abuse of minors. Here's a snip:

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.

The full homily is at Whispers. Also, John Allen of National Catholic Reporter is reporting that, earlier today, the pope met with sexual abuse victims from Boston.

The Anchoress has a good reflection on this morning's Mass. Her lead: "Did it seem to you, as it did to me that we watched Benedict loosen up or break free a little bit at this mass? Watching him exit he seemed bigger and bolder to me, as though he was growing into his part."

I should note that there was one slight negative out of today's Mass (and those field seats): I have a sunburn!

The image above of B16 incensing the altar today at Nationals Park is from BBC News.

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