Text of pope at farewell ceremony

Here is the text as released by the Vatican of Pope Benedict’s address during the departure ceremony tonight at John F. Kennedy International Airport:

Mr. Vice-President,
Distinguished Civil Authorities,
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The time has come for me to bid farewell to your country. These days that I have spent in the United States have been blessed with many memorable experiences of American hospitality, and I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your kind welcome. It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Catholic community here. It was heart-warming to spend time with leaders and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions, and I renew my assurances of respect and esteem to all of you. I am grateful to President Bush for kindly coming to greet me at the start of my visit, and I thank Vice-President Cheney for his presence here as I depart. The civic authorities, workers and volunteers in Washington and New York have given generously of their time and resources in order to ensure the smooth progress of my visit at every stage, and for this I express my profound thanks and appreciation to Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York.

Once again I offer prayerful good wishes to the representatives of the see of Baltimore, the first Archdiocese, and those of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, in this jubilee year. May the Lord continue to bless you in the years ahead. To all my Brother Bishops, to Bishop DiMarzio of this Diocese of Brooklyn, and to the officers and staff of the Episcopal Conference who have contributed in so many ways to the preparation of this visit, I extend my renewed gratitude for their hard work and dedication. With great affection I greet once more the priests and religious, the deacons, the seminarians and young people, and all the faithful in the United States, and I encourage you to continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope, our Risen Lord and Savior, who makes all things new and gives us life in abundance.

One of the high-points of my visit was the opportunity to address the General Assembly of the United Nations, and I thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his kind invitation and welcome. Looking back over the sixty years that have passed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I give thanks for all that the Organization has been able to achieve in defending and promoting the fundamental rights of every man, woman and child throughout the world, and I encourage people of good will everywhere to continue working tirelessly to promote justice and peaceful co-existence between peoples and nations.

My visit this morning to Ground Zero will remain firmly etched in my memory, as I continue to pray for those who died and for all who suffer in consequence of the tragedy that occurred there in 2001. For all the people of America, and indeed throughout the world, I pray that the future will bring increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.

With these words, I take my leave, I ask you to remember me in your prayers, and I assure you of my affection and friendship in the Lord. May God bless America!

The sounds of ground zero

Pope Benedict XVI prays at site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers in New York April 20. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)Ground zero was a quiet place this morning when Pope Benedict XVI stopped to pray. It was Sunday in lower Manhattan, the construction machinery stood immobile and the fog seemed to wrap the city in an eerie silence.

At the entrance we passed men in kilts, members of the Port Authority Police Pipes and Drums Band; they lost three members in the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Along with about 20 other members of our Vatican journalistic pool, I descended 70 feet to the bottom of the crater where the World Trade Center towers once stood. The pope would arrive in 45 minutes. I looked up toward street level and listened. A sea gull’s cry was the only sound that reached us.

A cellist began playing movements from Bach, a mournful music that filled the giant crater. Then the pope appeared, and the photographers standing behind me began clicking away.

The celllist stopped as the pope knelt to pray. Now the shutters clicked in rapid-fire staccato. A heavy lens dropped with a thud. A tripod scraped across our wooden platform. Eventually, however, even the photographers fell silent, and the pope prayed in absolute stillness.

After a brief talk, he greeted 27 people personally, speaking quietly to each one.  Some were survivors, some were relatives of victims. The microphone did not pick up his words. I watched as a woman in a red scarf spent a moment with the pope, then wiped away tears for several minutes.

Toward the end of the ceremony, we heard the sound of an airplane passing overhead. Then the cello’s sorrowful tones returned.

The pope stepped back into his popemobile and rolled up the concrete ramp. As he reached ground level, the unusual sound of bagpipes filtered down to the crater — the Port Authority band. It was a haunting sound.

Stadium Mass comparisons

George Weigel, whose syndicated column appears in many Catholic newspapers, had an essay April 8 in The Sun in Baltimore in which he opined how new Nationals Park in Washington “is simply not in the same league — either figuratively or literally” with Oriole Park at Camden Yards in his native Baltimore.

“One you’re inside, the (Washington) park’s connection to the city simply disappears; sitting just above the Nats’ bullpen on opening night, I could just as well have been in Reston (Va.), Hagerstown (Md.) or Omaha (Neb.), judging from what I could see,” Weigel wrote.

Camden Yards, he continued, is “far better integrated into the cityscape, far more redolent of real baseball — as distingushed from the `entertainment experience’ — and far more intimate (how Nationals Park has 7,000 fewer seats and manages to feel much bigger is a mystery).”

That may be an apt comparison. The Orioles have been playing ball at Camden Yards for 16 years, while the Washington Nationals haven’t even played 16 games in their new home for fans to pick a favorite.

But what about the stadiums’ suitability for a papal Mass? Surely Weigel, as the official biographer of Pope John Paul II, was able to snag a ticket to the late pope’s 1995 Mass at Camden Yards, just as he had to have been on hand at Nationals Park for Pope Benedict’s April 17 Mass there. I left a message April 18 on his phone at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, where he’s a senior fellow, seeking his comment. He hasn’t returned my call.

Granted, Weigel has been busy providing papal-trip color commentary on NBC, its New York and Washington affiliates, and its MSNBC cable outlet to return calls. So in the absence of his perspective, I’ll offer my view, having been privileged to be present at two papal Masses in large stadiums.

Nationals Park is, from all appearances, a fine place to take in a papal Mass. My seat was in the press box — one of the highest above home plate of all Major League Baseball parks — but when your assigned seat seems to be just one seat to the third-base side of home plate (never mind that Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in deep center field), you can take in the entire spectacle.

The half-inch-thick glass panes stayed closed throughout the Mass, which muffled somewhat the crowd noise, and the only audio piped in to the press box was Pope Benedict’s homily. That, and the fact that writers had to write what they were seeing as they were seeing it makes for an experience not quite as prayerful as one would like.

I was also at the Silverdome in the Detroit suburbs — where the Detroit Lions used to play football– in 1987 for the papal Mass there. Like in Washington, I was responsible for feature-story contributions. But my outpost was not the press box but a seat in a 1,500-voice choir. My seat was on the 50-yard line. Just my luck that Pope John Paul celebrated Mass from the 20.

Being closer — and among — a Mass assembly twice the size of the Nationals Park Mass was a near-unimaginable thrill. It’s a wonder the choir could enunciate properly what with all of the faces frozen in permanent smiles. And, there’s something to be said about your first papal Mass. Maybe the thrill decays after the first dozen or so.

In any event, given that pro football games routinely run longer than three hours, and that major league ballgames hover around two hours and 50 minutes on average, a two-hour papal Mass is a blessing in more ways than one!

Three thirty-five in the morning

What a difference a day makes, especially when they both start at the same time. For the sake of comparison let’s lookat the morning of Thursday, April 17, the date of Pope Benedict’s Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, and the morning of Sunday, April 20, a papal Mass-less day in the nation’s capital. Both days started at 3:35 a.m. — not that either one was intended to start that early.

Thursday, April 17

3:35 a.m.: Wake up. Alarm is set for 4 a.m. Why bother returning to the pillow and risking oversleeping? Put on clothes. Fill pockets and shoulder bag with all necessary devices required for modern news reporting. Tell wife she can turn off the alarm.

3:48 a.m.: In the car, headed for the designated “media hotel.” Its parking garage is full. Risk a ticket by parking on the street (no ticket was issued; turns out the police had other things on their mind).

4:05 a.m.: Arrive at hotel, get last of eight credentials to assure entry into Nationals Park.

4:30 a.m.: Get a back seat on the every-half-hour media shuttle.

4:45 a.m.: Arrive at Nationals Park, or at least as close as security will let us. Total commute time: 15 minutes.

5:15 a.m.: Through security, into the press box. Now’s the time to get my bearings before an assembly of 46,000 or so arrive. Wait — they’ve started trickling in ahead of schedule. Go down to the concourse and conduct interviews on every papal Mass-related subject imaginable.

8:25 a.m.: Return to press box. CNS Rome bureau chief has imagined a story subject you didn’t imagine. Go back down to conduct more interviews.

9:15 a.m. Back in the press box, this time in my seat pretty much for good. Start writing copy for others’ stories, and your own. Can’t let the popemobile’s entrance slow you down too much.

9:57 a.m.: The Mass begins, a few minutes early — at least according to the Nationals Park clock.

11:57 a.m.: The Mass is ended. Go in peace. Might as well keep writing while the faithful fan out of the ballpark.

Sunday, April 20

3:35 a.m.: Up again. Oh, well. The body tells you it’s not going to let you sleep any more. What are you going to do? The answer: laundry. The first five of seven loads eventually get washed.

3:45 a.m.: The New York Times arrives. Get all but three sections of it read before the Washington Post plops onto the porch. Get a third of its sections read.

6:45 a.m.: Shower and dress for church.

7:10 a.m.: Drive to church.

7:18 a.m. Arrive at church. Total commute: eight minutes — and that’s after passing a chuch closer to my house.

7:30 a.m.: The Mass begins.

8:37 a.m.: Back in the car for the commute home.

8:45 a.m.: Home again. Another load of laundry. Breakfast. Wash dishes. Fold dry laundry. Folding is a lot more labor-intensive than washing.

10:16 a.m.: Head to the farmers’ market a mile and a half from home to buy produce.

10:47 a.m.: Back home. More dry laundry to fold. The seventh load to wash. Change from church clothes to more comfortable garb for an office where the work will continue long after the air conditioning’s been turned off.

11:10 a.m.: Finish reading the Post — barely — before putting that last load in the dryer, telling a charity telemarketer to call back next week.

11:49 a.m.: Back to the office.

 

An empty seat now, a fuller pew later

After the entrance procession at St. Gabriel Church in Washington today, Father Tom Gude, the pastor and celebrant, noted that he had stayed at the rectory rather than go to the April 17 papal Mass. “It’s just as well,” he said. “About 10 minutes after the Mass started, I got a phone call at the rectory. It was a woman. She asked, `How do I join the Catholic Church?'”

Father Gude added, “She said she had been watching the Mass on TV, and they were playing `Holy God, We Praise Thy Name’ (as Pope Benedict XVI was entering the stadium in his popemobile), and she said, `I was just so moved.'”

During his homily, he brought up again the issue of the woman wanting to join the church. “That whole stadium was singing. Who knows if one person hadn’t been singing, whether that woman would have been moved to call the rectory and want to join the church.”

 

Text of pope at Yankee Stadium

Here is the text as released by the Vatican of Pope Benedict’s homily during Mass at Yankee Stadium this afternoon:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus tells his Apostles to put their faith in him, for he is “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Christ is the way that leads to the Father, the truth which gives meaning to human existence, and the source of that life which is eternal joy with all the saints in his heavenly Kingdom. Let us take the Lord at his word! Let us renew our faith in him and put all our hope in his promises!

With this encouragement to persevere in the faith of Peter (cf. Lk 22:32; Mt 16:17), I greet all of you with great affection. I thank Cardinal Egan for his cordial words of welcome in your name. At this Mass, the Church in the United States celebrates the two hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville from the mother See of Baltimore. The presence around this altar of the Successor of Peter, his brother bishops and priests, and deacons, men and women religious, and lay faithful from throughout the fifty states of the Union, eloquently manifests our communion in the Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles.

Our celebration today is also a sign of the impressive growth which God has given to the Church in your country in the past two hundred years. From a small flock like that described in the first reading, the Church in America has been built up in fidelity to the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. In this land of freedom and opportunity, the Church has united a widely diverse flock in the profession of the faith and, through her many educational, charitable and social works, has also contributed significantly to the growth of American society as a whole.

This great accomplishment was not without its challenges. Today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of linguistic and cultural tensions already present within the earliest Church community. At the same time, it shows the power of the word of God, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles and received in faith, to create a unity which transcends the divisions arising from human limitations and weakness. Here we are reminded of a fundamental truth: that the Church’s unity has no other basis than the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord. All external signs of identity, all structures, associations and programs, valuable or even essential as they may be, ultimately exist only to support and foster the deeper unity which, in Christ, is God’s indefectible gift to his Church.

The first reading also makes clear, as we see from the imposition of hands on the first deacons, that the Church’s unity is “apostolic”. It is a visible unity, grounded in the Apostles whom Christ chose and appointed as witnesses to his resurrection, and it is born of what the Scriptures call “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; cf. Acts 6:7).

“Authority” … “obedience”. To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – “the way and the truth and the life” – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words. The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace”.

Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

This magnificent vision of a world being transformed by the liberating truth of the Gospel is reflected in the description of the Church found in today’s second reading. The Apostle tells us that Christ, risen from the dead, is the keystone of a great temple which is even now rising in the Spirit. And we, the members of his body, through Baptism have become “living stones” in that temple, sharing in the life of God by grace, blessed with the freedom of the sons of God, and empowered to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to him (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). And what is this offering which we are called to make, if not to direct our every thought, word and action to the truth of the Gospel and to harness all our energies in the service of God’s Kingdom? Only in this way can we build with God, on the one foundation which is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:11). Only in this way can we build something that will truly endure. Only in this way can our lives find ultimate meaning and bear lasting fruit.

Today we recall the bicentennial of a watershed in the history of the Church in the United States: its first great chapter of growth. In these two hundred years, the face of the Catholic community in your country has changed greatly. We think of the successive waves of immigrants whose traditions have so enriched the Church in America. We think of the strong faith which built up the network of churches, educational, healthcare and social institutions which have long been the hallmark of the Church in this land. We think also of those countless fathers and mothers who passed on the faith to their children, the steady ministry of the many priests who devoted their lives to the care of souls, and the incalculable contribution made by so many men and women religious, who not only taught generations of children how to read and write, but also inspired in them a lifelong desire to know God, to love him and to serve him. How many “spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God” have been offered up in these two centuries! In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society. Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, to proclaim his glorious works” (1 Pet 2:9). These words of the Apostle Peter do not simply remind us of the dignity which is ours by God’s grace; they also challenge us to an ever greater fidelity to the glorious inheritance which we have received in Christ (cf. Eph 1:18). They challenge us to examine our consciences, to purify our hearts, to renew our baptismal commitment to reject Satan and all his empty promises. They challenge us to be a people of joy, heralds of the unfailing hope (cf. Rom 5:5) born of faith in God’s word, and trust in his promises.

Each day, throughout this land, you and so many of your neighbors pray to the Father in the Lord’s own words: “Thy Kingdom come”. This prayer needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation. It needs to bear fruit in the way you lead your lives and in the way you build up your families and your communities. It needs to create new “settings of hope” (cf. Spe Salvi, 32ff.) where God’s Kingdom becomes present in all its saving power.

Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society. It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign. It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, “there is no human activity – even in secular affairs – which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion” (Lumen Gentium, 36). It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.

And this, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of Saint Peter sets before you today. As “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”, follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you! Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land! Past generations have left you an impressive legacy. In our day too, the Catholic community in this nation has been outstanding in its prophetic witness in the defense of life, in the education of the young, in care for the poor, the sick and the stranger in your midst. On these solid foundations, the future of the Church in America must even now begin to rise!

Yesterday, not far from here, I was moved by the joy, the hope and the generous love of Christ which I saw on the faces of the many young people assembled in Dunwoodie. They are the Church’s future, and they deserve all the prayer and support that you can give them. And so I wish to close by adding a special word of encouragement to them. My dear young friends, like the seven men, “filled with the Spirit and wisdom” whom the Apostles charged with care for the young Church, may you step forward and take up the responsibility which your faith in Christ sets before you! May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, “the same, yesterday, and today and for ever” and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10; Heb 13:8). These are the truths that set us free! They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world – including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother’s womb. In a world where, as Pope John Paul II, speaking in this very place, reminded us, Lazarus continues to stand at our door (Homily at Yankee Stadium, October 2, 1979, No. 7), let your faith and love bear rich fruit in outreach to the poor, the needy and those without a voice. Young men and women of America, I urge you: open your hearts to the Lord’s call to follow him in the priesthood and the religious life. Can there be any greater mark of love than this: to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who was willing to lay down his life for his friends (cf. Jn 15:13)?

In today’s Gospel, the Lord promises his disciples that they will perform works even greater than his (cf. Jn 14:12). Dear friends, only God in his providence knows what works his grace has yet to bring forth in your lives and in the life of the Church in the United States. Yet Christ’s promise fills us with sure hope. Let us now join our prayers to his, as living stones in that spiritual temple which is his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Let us lift our eyes to him, for even now he is preparing for us a place in his Father’s house. And empowered by his Holy Spirit, let us work with renewed zeal for the spread of his Kingdom.

“Happy are you who believe!” (cf. 1 Pet 2:7). Let us turn to Jesus! He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world. Amen.

* * *

Queridos hermanos y hermanas en el Señor:

Les saludo con afecto y me alegro de celebrar esta Santa Misa para dar gracias a Dios por el bicentenario del momento en que empezó a desarrollarse la Iglesia Católica en esta Nación. Al mirar el camino de fe recorrido en estos años, no exento también de dificultades, alabamos al Señor por los frutos que la Palabra de Dios ha dado en estas tierras y le manifestamos nuestro deseo de que Cristo, Camino, Verdad y Vida, sea cada vez más conocido y amado.

Aquí, en este País de libertad, quiero proclamar con fuerza que la Palabra de Cristo no elimina nuestras aspiraciones a una vida plena y libre, sino que nos descubre nuestra verdadera dignidad de hijos de Dios y nos alienta a luchar contra todo aquello que nos esclaviza, empezando por nuestro propio egoísmo y caprichos. Al mismo tiempo, nos anima a manifestar nuestra fe a través de nuestra vida de caridad y a hacer que nuestras comunidades eclesiales sean cada día más acogedoras y fraternas.

Sobre todo a los jóvenes les confío asumir el gran reto que entraña creer en Cristo y lograr que esa fe se manifieste en una cercanía efectiva hacia los pobres. También en una respuesta generosa a las llamadas que Él sigue formulando para dejarlo todo y emprender una vida de total consagración a Dios y a la Iglesia, en la vida sacerdotal o religiosa.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, les invito a mirar el futuro con esperanza, permitiendo que Jesús entre en sus vidas. Solamente Él es el camino que conduce a la felicidad que no acaba, la verdad que satisface las más nobles expectativas humanas y la vida colmada de gozo para bien de la Iglesia y el mundo. Que Dios les bendiga.

[Translation of Spanish:]

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord:

I greet you with affection, and I am happy to celebrate this holy Mass giving thanks to God for the bicentennial of the moment when the Catholic Church in this nation began to develop. Looking back at the path the faith traveled in those years, which was not free of difficulties, we praise the Lord for the fruit that the Word of God has born in these lands and express our desire that Christ, the way, the truth and the life, will become ever better known and loved.

Here, in this country of liberty, I want to proclaim forcefully that the Word of Christ does not eliminate our aspirations for a full and free life but helps us discover our true dignity as children of God and encourages us in the fight against anything that would enslave us, beginning with our own selfishness and whims. At the same time it encourages us to express our faith through a life of charity and by making our church communities all the more welcoming and fraternal.

Above all I entrust to you young people the great challenge of deepening your belief in Christ and giving it expression in a real nearness to the poor as well as in a generous response to the calls that the Lord continues to address to you by undertaking a life of total consecration to God and the church as a priest or religious.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to look at the future with hope, permitting Jesus to enter your lives. He is the only path that leads to the happiness that never ends, to the truth that satisfies the most noble human expectations and to a life full of joy for the good of the church and of the world. May God bless you.

Logistical nightmares in New York City

On Friday, I waited nearly five hours to hear the pope speak at the United Nations. On Saturday, I waited six hours for a press bus – which I wouldn’t have minded so much, except I never got where I was going.

Maybe it’s the traffic, or maybe it’s the scale and density of the city, but logistical operations on the New York leg of Pope Benedict’s trip seemed to break down.

The problems started as soon as the pope arrived Friday. Rome bureau chief John Thavis rode a press helicopter from JFK to Manhattan, where a bus was to speed him and other journalists uptown. But they were dropped off about seven blocks from U.N. headquarters and ended up missing the pope’s arrival and initial meet-and-greets. Some of the other Vatican press corps members coming by bus from the airport fared even worse: They missed the pope’s entire address.

People arrived at the press center at 6:45 Saturday morning to get in line for an 8:30 bus to a venue just outside the city. That first bus encountered almost comical problems along the way, finally arriving at its destination 15 miles from the departure point a bit before 11 a.m. And then it sat outside the seminary for reasons unclear. (For more details of that long and winding road, see colleague Beth Griffin’s post.)

Those of us relegated to the second fleet of buses went through our security “sweep” two hours late. As we sat in a holding room, quarantined from the huddled masses of the unsecure and unswept, organizers began calling us for boarding according to the position area we’d been assigned to at the venue. Mine was the last one, group six. Didn’t someone famous once say the last shall be first? I’m still waiting to jump to the head of the line.

Group six got left behind. We found another bus soon enough, but much like at Kennedy airport, the simple act of boarding doesn’t always mean you’re actually going anywhere. All the Secret Service escorts were booked, which meant we were stuck on the bus for at least an hour and 45 minutes, when we’d be able to join the Vatican press corps and their designated escort. And just like at the airport, we couldn’t de-bus.

As the hours ticked by, I began to wonder if my destination was such a great idea anyway. I received periodic reports from Beth on her epic quest to locate the media center, which turned out to be useless. Then she found something called the filing center, which resembled a media center.

Difficulties continued hours after she’d secured an Internet connection. Imagine trying to leave a venue where 25,000 young people have converged. When I covered World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, bureau chief John Thavis made the following prediction of the press bus that would depart the muddy fields where 2 million teenagers had gathered for 24 hours: “It’ll be like the last helicopter out of Saigon.”

CNS photographer Bob Roller’s bus to the youth rally was delayed four hours because of the fiasco with the first bus, and when the bus finally arrived at the seminary, it dropped him and three photographers more than a mile from their designated spot. After the youth rally, Roller endured another forced march with 75 pounds of equipment a mile and a half uphill to get to the point where he’d been dropped off. Only when he got there, he discovered he was in the wrong spot for the return bus. Back down the hill.

John Feister of St. Anthony Messenger beat the rest of the press back home by forgoing the bus entirely – he hitched a ride with a Yonkers priest to a train station.

After my trip to nowhere, I had no desire to repeat the experience this morning at Yankee Stadium. As at other venues, getting there appeared to be only half the battle. As of 12:30 pm, no one (including the press handlers) knew what the wi-fi password was, and reporters were going old-school, calling in their stories.

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