US Catholics flock to baseball stadium for Mass with pope

April 17th, 2008 - 9:46 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 17 (DPA) More than 46,000 Catholics converged on Washington’s new baseball stadium Thursday to worship with Pope Benedict XVI, who is on a six-day visit to the US. Lines of people lined up outside the stadium - with its view of the Capitol building - to go through tight security, as police officers rummaged through bags and waved metal detector wands over priests in their vestments.

Nuns, priests and lay people queued up to 30 minutes for coffee, hotdogs and muffins at the stadium’s concession stands, contrasting with the strains of sacred music echoing through the arena.

Others sought out souvenirs, with several styles of T-shirts commemorating the event going for $20 at stands that usually hawk team merchandise.

Wearing gold and black jackets embroidered with their diocese name and “Christ Our Hope,” several women from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said they had travelled in buses overnight for the Mass.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience to see the Holy Father. We’re just thrilled,” said Sheryl Skowronski, 53, the director of religious education at a Pittsburgh-area church.

Cynthia Brown, 52, a school principal from nearby Arlington, Virginia, called Benedict a “unifying presence” for US Catholics.

“It’s a big sign of the faith and spiritual healing that’s out there,” she said of Benedict’s visit while listening to the pre-Mass music. “It’s a visual reminder that faith is important and permeates everyone’s life.”

On Wednesday, Benedict met with President George W. Bush, urging the US to seek peaceful solutions to international conflict, and addressed bishops on moving beyond the priest sex abuse scandal that has scarred the church since the extent of the molestation and cover-up was uncovered six years ago.

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