Pope cel­e­brates first pub­lic mass in U.S.

Top­ics of mass in­clude equal­ity, sex scan­dals

The Covington News - - Religion - By Eric Gorski

WASH­ING­TON — Pope Bene­dict XVI praised Amer­ica as a land of op­por­tu­nity and hope Thurs­day as he cel­e­brated the first pub­lic Mass of his U.S. pil­grim­age, but he lamented that the na­tion’s prom­ise fell short for blacks and In­di­ans.

Hope for the fu­ture, he said, “is very much a part of the Amer­i­can char­ac­ter.”

Tens of thou­sands of wor­ship­pers filled Na­tion­als Park on a clear spring day and cheered Bene­dict as he ar­rived in a white pope­mo­bile, stand­ing in the back and wav­ing.

The crowd grew to 46,000, and the de­mand for tick­ets dou­bled the sup­ply, or­ga­niz­ers said.

The pope, wear­ing scar­let vest­ments, led the ser­vice from an al­tar erected in cen­ter field of the re­cently in­au­gu­rated base­ball sta­dium. Rows of red-robed church lead­ers joined him.

In bril­liant spring sun­shine, the pope walked down from the al­tar to dis­trib­ute Holy Com­mu­nion near the end of Mass.

“Amer­i­cans have al­ways been a peo­ple of hope,” he said dur­ing his homily. “Your an­ces­tors came to this coun­try with the ex­pe­ri­ence of find­ing new free­dom and op­por­tu­nity.

“To be sure, this prom­ise was not ex­pe­ri­enced by all the in­hab­i­tants of this land; one thinks of the in­jus­tices en­dured by the na­tive Amer­i­can peo­ples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves.”

He turned for a third day to the clergy sex abuse scan­dal that rocked the Amer­i­can church, say­ing “no words of mine could de­scribe the pain and harm in­flicted by such abuse.”

He called for heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and as­sis­tance to the vic­tims.

Bar­bara and Michael Loh of Wil­liams­burg, Va., sat alone in the stands tak­ing in the scene. They were among the first to ar­rive.

“I’ve been Catholic all my life and ... my dream has al­ways been to see the pope,” said Bar­bara Loh, tear­ing up.

At 5:45 a.m., more than four hours be­fore the Mass, it was stand­ing-room only on sub­ways.

Ven­dors hawked Vat­i­can flags and sou­venir but­tons, but there were few tak­ers as peo­ple hur­ried to­ward the sta­dium.

For oth­ers, there was noth­ing more im­por­tant than get­ting in, and many peo­ple with­out tick­ets stood out­side the sub­way sta­tion with signs plead­ing for ex­tras.

Patty Trail, 54, pas­toral as­so­ci­ate at a church in Vir­ginia Beach, Va., drove overnight to bring two priests to the Mass.

She didn’t have a ticket but said she was happy to at least be in the vicin­ity of the pope.

“Just to be out here, just to be in the pres­ence,” she said. “D.C. feels dif­fer­ent.”

At the end of the two-hour Mass, Bene­dict blessed the cheer­ing crowd, some of them wav­ing Vat­i­can flags.

Wor­ried- look­ing pa­pal body­guards stood close and cleared a way for him as he walked out, while many wor­ship­pers tried to shake his hand or touch his robes.

A num­ber of law­mak­ers who sup­port abor­tion rights at­tended the Mass, in­clud­ing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. John Kerry, the for­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Dur­ing the 2004 cam­paign, sev­eral bishops ques­tioned whether Kerry should re­ceive Com­mu­nion be­cause of his stand on abor­tion.

Kerry, who took Com­mu­nion from a priest far from the pa­pal al­tar, said he didn’t think the pope’s mes­sage would have any bear­ing on this year’s cam­paign. “It has noth­ing to do with pol­i­tics,” he told As­so­ci­ated Press Television News.

On Wed­nes­day, Bene­dict spent the first full day of his U. S. jour­ney shar­ing a plat­form with Pres­i­dent Bush and lay­ing out his anal­y­sis of the Amer­i­can church to the na­tion’s bishops.

Be­fore Bene­dict’s ar­rival, polls showed most Amer­i­cans knew lit­tle or noth­ing about him.

Those who have watched him so far have found a Ger­man-born pon­tiff who speaks ex­cel­lent English, ap­pears vig­or­ous for his 81 years, mostly prefers script to spon­tane­ity and dis­plays a keen sense of the crit­i­cal is­sues fac­ing his 65-mil­lion mem­ber Amer­i­can flock.

One of largest ques­tions hang­ing over Bene­dict’s first U.S. trip as pon­tiff was whether and how he would ad­dress the clergy sex abuse scan­dal, which has claimed thou­sands of vic­tims, cost the church more than $2 bil­lion in court costs and set­tle­ments and led six dio­ce­ses to de­clare bank­ruptcy.

The pon­tiff talked about the scan­dal early, of­ten and with con­vic­tion, al­though not to the sat­is­fac­tion of many vic­tims and their ad­vo­cates.

In an ad­dress to U. S. bishops Wed­nes­day night at the Basil­ica of the Na­tional Shrine of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion, Bene­dict called the scan­dal a “deep shame.” He de­cried the “ enor­mous pain” that com­mu­ni­ties have suf­fered from such “gravely im­moral be­hav­ior.”

He also said the prob­lem needs to be viewed in the wider con­text of sec­u­lar­ism and the over-sex­u­al­iza­tion of Amer­ica, and called for “a de­ter­mined, col­lec­tive re­sponse.”

Ad­vo­cates for vic­tims have com­plained that no bishops have been dis­ci­plined for fail­ing to warn par­ents and po­lice about abusers.

Af­ter his ap­pear­ance at the sta­dium, Bene­dict was to ad­dress Catholic ed­u­ca­tors and meet with lead­ers of other faiths.

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