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April 27, 2008

Pope celebrates, shares personal touch on visit

Pope visits Cardinal Dulles

Pope Benedict XVI took a few moments out of his demanding schedule for a private meeting April 19 with one of America’s pre-eminent theologians, the ailing, 89-year-old Cardinal Avery Dulles.

The Jesuit scholar, who now needs a wheelchair, traveled from his residence at Jesuit-run Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx to St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., for a prearranged, 15- minute private meeting with the pope, just after the pontiff met with disabled youths.

“It was a lovely meeting,” said Dominican Sister Anne-Marie Kirmse, the cardinal’s executive assistant for the past 20 years. She was present to help facilitate the get-together, held in a suite of offices at the seminary. “The pope literally bounded into the room with a big smile on his face.”

Ronald McDonald House residents greet pope

In an unscheduled April 19 event, Pope Benedict XVI greeted about 40 ill or disabled children and their family members from Ronald McDonald House in New York.

At about 8 p.m., chaplain Cherilyn Frei received a call from James Murtagh, the commanding officer of the New York Police Department’s 19th Precinct saying that the pope wanted to greet neighborhood residents outside Archbishop Celestino Migliore’s residence, where he was staying.

The precinct’s jurisdiction includes Ronald McDonald House and the archbishop’s residence, and officers helped provide security during Pope Benedict’s April 18-20 New York visit.

“I ran down the halls, knocked on some doors and basically we threw them into vans and took off,” Frei told Catholic News Service.

Video gives instructions for distributing Communion

In preparing for the April 20 papal Mass at Yankee Stadium, the Archdiocese of New York posted an instructional video on the archdiocesan Web site for the priests and deacons distributing Communion to the more than 57,000 people at the Mass.

Each priest and extraordinary minister of holy Communion was expected to distribute Communion to 100-150 people, four rows at a time. The goal was to give out the hosts in 15 minutes and by most accounts the goal was met.

Five priests were responsible for consolidating the undistributed hosts and dry-purifying and packaging the 550 ciboria commissioned for the stadium Mass.

The commemorative ciboria were to be distributed to each of the parishes of the Archdiocese of New York and each of the bishops concelebrating the Mass.

An $870,000 birthday gift

U.S. bishops presented Pope Benedict XVI with a birthday gift from Catholics across the country — $870,000 to support his charitable works.

At the end of a vespers service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception April 16, Cardinal George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the pope the bishops were privileged to be sharing his 81st birthday with him. He presented him with the money without specifying how it had been collected.

Earlier, in the shrine’s upper church, employees of the USCCB and the Archdiocese of Washington sang “Happy Birthday,” as did members of the crowd outside the shrine.

The pope’s 81st birthday, celebrated on his first full day in the United States, included multiple renditions of “Happy Birthday” — in English, German and Spanish.

That morning, the pope was greeted by Catholic school students in a private ceremony at the embassy before the official start of his April 15-20 pastoral visit to the U.S.

A choir from Annunciation School in Washington greeted the Bavarian-born pope, singing “Happy Birthday” in German and English. Pope Benedict shook the hands of several students and congratulated the school’s music teacher on the students’ singing performance. He said it was “wonderful. In German and in English.”

Commuters use “Mass Pass”

Morning commuters found themselves surrounded on subway trains by a peculiar weekday morning sight April 17 — thousands of people climbing aboard as early as 5 a.m. to attend a Mass at Nationals Park celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

Men in clerical collars and women in habits, families dressed in their Sunday best and teens in Catholic school uniforms crowded onto jammed Metro trains to the stadium as soon as the subway system opened. By 7 a.m., steady streams of people moved up escalators and down streets to security checkpoints outside the newly opened baseball stadium.

As people walked down Half Street to the gates, vendors selling buttons, pennants, T-shirts and photos of the pope competed for Massgoers’ attention with dozens of volunteers in royal blue “prolife” T-shirts who were handing out bumper stickers.

Singer says synagogue performance is ‘powerful’

On April 18, Daryl Henricksen, a Protestant, sang for Pope Benedict XVI and Rabbi Arthur Schneier at a brief prayer service at the Park East Synagogue in New York.

“It was a powerful, heady experience and very emotional, very surreal” he said after the service.

But Henricksen has experience with varying religious traditions.

On Fridays and Saturdays, Henricksen sings a cappella, in Hebrew, at the historic Park East Synagogue in New York. On Saturday evenings and Sundays, he’s a member of the mixed adult choir and the cantor for four Masses at Resurrection Catholic Church in Rye, N.Y.

Grade-school children give pope final send-off

After all the speeches were over and the VIPs had gone home, Pope Benedict XVI had a final U.S. send-off from 36 grade-schoolers in Virginia.

Homemade cards from the third- and fourth-graders of St. William of York Catholic School in Stafford, Va., were given to the pope aboard his Alitalia plane after he left New York April 20.

The cards, made of colorful construction paper, offered a spiritual bouquet and birthday wishes to the pope, who turned 81 during his April 15-20 visit to Washington and New York.

Adorned with drawings of birthday cakes, self-portraits, a rosary and a giant heart, the handwritten cards pledged prayers for completion of a safe trip.

“Dear Pope Benedict, I am praying 2 glory bes for you every day. I am honored that you are visiting my state,” said one card.