April 4, 2008

Papal Masses to Reflect Diversity of U.S. Population, Celebrate Several Bi-Centennials.

WASHINGTON– Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass with tens of thousands of people in Washington and New York during his apostolic visit to the United States, April 15-20.

In Washington, the Mass will be celebrated on Thursday, April 17, at 10 a.m. at the new Nationals Park, which is expected to accommodate 46,000 people. In tune with the season of Easter and Pentecost, the readings will speak about hope and the Holy Spirit. There will be readings in English and Spanish, and the general intercessions, also known as Prayers of the Faithful, will include petitions in the Igbo, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog languages as well.

The music program for the Mass will reflect a variety of musical styles, from traditional Latin and English hymns to other modern rhythms in several languages. Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo and American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves are expected to sing at the Mass along with four different choirs totaling 570 members from across the Archdiocese of Washington.

Father Mark Knestout, coordinator of liturgy for the Mass, said their objective has been to make the Mass as “participatory as possible, showcasing the archdiocese and its diversity from a parish perspective.”

Approximately 250 bishops and over 1,200 priests have already signed up to concelebrate with the pope. Special red vestments have been ordered for the main celebrants. Three hundred members of the clergy, including bishops, priests and deacons will distribute Communion. The chalice to be used by the Holy Father is being handcrafted in Spain.

New York’s Yankee Stadium will accommodate approximately 57,000 participants for the Mass on Sunday, April 20, the last day of Pope Benedict’s visit. Mass is set to start at 2:30 p.m. It will have an especially celebratory tone as it commemorates the bi-centennial anniversary of the foundation of four U.S. dioceses, including Boston, Louisville, Philadelphia and, the host, the Archdiocese of New York, as well as the 200th anniversary of the Baltimore’s designation as the first U.S. archdiocese. These dioceses as well as those immediately neighboring the Big Apple will have the largest representation at the Mass.

The readings for the Mass will be those corresponding to the Fifth Sunday of Easter. They will be proclaimed in English and Spanish and the Prayer of the Faithful will be offered in several languages. More than 550 priests and clergy will distribute Communion at Yankee Stadium. They will be guided to their posts by volunteer “Communion guides” from the Holy Name Society of the New York City Fire and Police Departments, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher.

The New York Archdiocese has ordered 500 new ciboria engraved to commemorate the occasion. They will be used at the stadium for the distribution of Communion and given to each parish of the archdiocese afterwards for their use and as a memento.

The priests of the archdiocese will wear the vestments from the Mass with Pope John Paul II at Central Park in 1995. Special vestments are being ordered for the main concelebrants. The clergy from the four other dioceses celebrating bi-centennials also will wear their own special vestments.

Monsignor Les Ivers, pastor of St. Frances de Chantal parish in the Bronx and coordinator of the Mass at Yankee Stadium, praised the work of producer Stig Edgren of California who is producing the event as well as the events with the young people at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers and at ‘Ground Zero.’ “He did a superb job for us in 1995 at Central Park and we invited him back,” said Msgr. Ivers who in 1995 was the overall coordinator for the Pope’s visit to New York.

In spite of all the logistical challenges and all the choreography involved in celebrating Mass at a baseball stadium, Msgr. Ivers expressed hope that both those physically present at the stadium and the ones following the events on television will be able to feel a sense of participating at a worshipping event filled with the reverence that surrounds any Mass, but especially those in which the Holy Father is present.

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