Ten Years Ago, Pope Benedict Came Bearing Witness to “Christ Our Hope”
Ten years ago this week, Pope Benedict XVI made his apostolic journey to our nation’s capital, which was truly a time of grace for the Archdiocese of Washington and the Church in the United States.
The visit included a welcome by President George W. Bush at the White House, and meetings with the U.S. bishops, Catholic educators, and leaders of other faiths. But the true focal point of the Holy Father’s visit was the Mass at the newly-opened Nationals Park, filled with about 50,000 people from throughout the country and across this local Church, who offered him a thunderous welcome as he arrived.
At this celebration of the Eucharist, the smiling pope looked around and saw the face of the Church in our country, people with roots from around the world, all united in one faith, around one altar. The music by the Papal Mass Choir, Gospel Choir, Children’s Choir and Intercultural Choir reflected that diversity and unity. As I greeted Pope Benedict, I noted that we looked to him for renewed inspiration to make all things new in “Christ our Hope,” which was the theme of the papal visit.
As the Holy Father stood among us, we knew that Peter, the rock of our faith, was there. In his homily, he said he had come to confirm us in the faith of the Apostles, a reminder that we are part of a family of faith that traces its lineage and sacraments all the way back to those who received it from Christ – the Apostles who heard and saw Jesus and walked with him, and who witnessed his death and resurrection.
When the Eucharistic prayer began, the silence that pervaded the entire crowd was such that the only noise you could hear was the street noise outside. For everyone there, the sense of reverence and devotion then offered an unforgettable memory. After the Mass when we got into the car, the pope turned to me and said, “That liturgy was a true prayer.”
Ten years later, the concluding words of Pope Benedict’s homily continue to resonate: “Those who have hope must live different lives. By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way toward that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior.”
Pope Benedict came as a messenger of hope in Christ. As a personal witness of Jesus’ love, we know it is a love that transforms one’s heart and can change the world.