This morning, Pope Benedict celebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
The gates opened and people began to gather at 6:00 a.m. They were greeted by music representing the cultural diversity present in the Archdiocese of Washington. In addition, priests were available for those who wished to receive the Sacrament of Penance.
The procession of the clergy began at 8:30. The procession of the bishops began at 9:00 a.m. More than 1,300 priests and 250 bishops from around the country came to celebrate the Mass with the Holy Father. Prelude music was provided by four choirs (the Papal Choir, the Intercultural Choir, the Gospel Choir, and the Children’s Choir) as well as an orchestra, a handbell choir, a brass choir, and other instrumentalists. The music sung during the prelude and the liturgy used more than 10 languages. The final song before the entrance hymn was “We Are One in the Spirit,” a traditional spiritual led by opera singer Denyce Graves.
The Holy Father arrived at the stadium at 9:30 and traveled around the track in the Popemobile before going into the manager’s room to vest for the liturgy. The Mass celebrated was the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, so the Holy Father wore red vestments.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, welcomed the Holy Father. The people responded with an enormous ovation, warmly received by Pope Benedict. Following the welcome, the Holy Father embraced Archbishop Wuerl and gave him a red vestment in commemoration of the visit.
The readings were Acts 2:1-11 (read in Spanish), Romans 8:22-27 (read in English), and John 20:19-23 (read in English). The Responsorial Psalm was Psalm 104.
Pope Benedict began his homily by recalling the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. The Church in the United States has brought together people from many countries in the world and, while respecting their diversity, has brought them into the unity of the Church.
The Holy Father called the Church in the United States to conversion and repentance and asked the Father to send a new outpouring of the Spirit so that the faithful can be united in faith and renewed in missionary zeal. Such zeal is needed in a world too often marked by division, polarization, and a forgetting of God.
Pope Benedict commended those who are committed to the new evangelization. He emphasized the importance of handing on the authentic Catholic faith.
Hope for the future has marked the American character and it must the life of the Catholic community in the United States as well. He recognized the pain and suffering that has arisen in the Church due to the sexual abuse of minors. He asked all in the Church to work toward healing and reconciliation and to ensure that children can grow up in a safe environment. In a time of suffering and division, we offer a prayer of hope and yearning for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom.
The gift of the Spirit offers conversion and renewal. Pope Benedict encouraged all the faithful to rediscover the gift of the Sacrament of Penance on which the renewal of the Church in America will depend.
The Holy Father invited all the faithful to be a leaven of Gospel hope in American society and to help to build a more just and free world.
Pope Benedict then offered a few words in Spanish. He called upon those who speak Spanish to contribute to the future of the Church in the United States and to spread the Gospel. Our unity with Christ and with each other will make our testimony credible.
The people responded to the hoimily with cheers and shouts of “Viva il Papa!” and “Benedetto!”. Following the homily, those gathered professed their faith by renewing their baptismal promises. The intercessions of the Prayer of the Faithful were read in English, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese, Igbo, and Spanish.
The gifts were presented by four groups. First was four generations of a family who attend Our Lady’s Parish in Leonardtown, Md. The matriarch and patriarch of the family have been married 69 years! The second group was young people from the region. The third group included women and men in consecrated life. The fourth group included men and women with disabilities.
The Holy Father prayed Eucharistic Prayer III. Archbishop Wuerl and Cardinal Bertone (the Vatican Secretary of State) said parts of the prayer.
At the Sign of Peace, the Holy Father greeted Archbishop Wuerl and Cardinal Bertone, the deacons serving at the altar, and the masters of ceremony.
Holy Communion was distributed by the Holy Father and 275 priests and deacons. The communion stations were marked by large yellow umbrellas. After the Communion procession, tenor Placido Domingo sang Panis Angelicus.
During the final blessing, the Holy Father blessed religious articles brought by the faithful as well as the cornerstone and the tabernacle for the new Pope John Paul the Great High School in the Diocese of Arlington (Virginia).
As he left the stadium, Pope Benedict stopped several times to reach out to the faithful in attendance and offer blessings.