Pope arrives at Mass
AP Religion Writer
WASHINGTON ” Pope Benedict XVI arrived at Washington Nationals stadium on Thursday for his first public Mass in the United States, waving to the crowd as he stood in the back of a white popemobile.
Tens of thousands of people waved back as the German-born pope was driven through the grounds. A crowd of 46,000 was expected, and the demand for tickets doubled the supply, organizers said.
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.
One of larger 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 answer: He talked about it 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.”