Year of Faith Mass with Pope Benedict XVI
Those words from the Gospel of Matthew illustrate the gifts that the Pittsburgh pilgrims experienced today (Oct. 11) at the papal Mass for the opening of the international Year of Faith.
Stepping off their buses on the grand Via della Conciliazione, the pilgrims were struck by the heavenly sounds of music coming from the Vatican choir in St. Peter’s Square. As everyone found places amid the sea of chairs in the square and settled in for what would be a long celebration, many spoke of the incredible honor they felt to be there.
Tom Kneier, who was chosen by the Pittsburgh Catholic to help lead the tour, revealed his feelings of awe and the simple truths of the Christian faith, that all this began with a few men and a Savior risen from the dead. It was indeed good that we were here.
After a long procession of bishops, cardinals and other dignitaries, including Bishop David Zubik, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in his popemobile.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the start of the Year of Faith, the Mass was mostly celebrated in Italian, with many uses of Latin in music and prayers.
According to Catholic News Service, the pope called on Catholics to revive the “authentic spirit” of Vatican II by re-proposing the church’s ancient teachings to an increasingly Godless modern world.
About 400 bishops from around the world, including 15 of the 70 surviving members of the 1962-65 council, attended. Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury attended as special guests.
The observances featured ceremonies recalling milestones of Vatican II, including the enthronement of a book of the Gospels used at the original gathering and a re-presentation of the council's final “messages” to various categories of lay Catholics, such as artists, workers and women.
Vatican II, Pope Benedict said, had been “animated by a desire ... to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man.”
For Communion, an army of priests shielded by yellow and white umbrellas was scattered throughout the crowd.
By the end of the more than two-hour Mass, the Pittsburgh contingent was a bit fatigued and looking for some sustenance before beginning their touring schedule.
They first visited the Vatican Museums (actually many museums put together, which is why “museums” is plural), and their tour guides prepared them to view the Sistine Chapel.
Walking through halls and halls of ancient statues, remarkable tapestries and striking frescoes, they entered the “Cappella Sistina.” Michelangelo’s masterpiece never looked so good.
No photography is allowed in the chapel, so the memory of viewing one of the most incredible works of art will have to suffice. And they can always find a souvenir that shows what they saw.
Leaving the chapel, the pilgrims next entered St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world and the center of the Catholic faith. They viewed Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” the relocated tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II and the displayed body of Blessed Pope John XXIII.
Dinner tonight was to be the pilgrim’s choice. Some planned to eat with friends at a local restaurant and catch a bus or taxi back to their hotel. Others were looking for a welcome rest from a busy few days in bustling Rome.
Tomorrow, the Pittsburghers are to split up, with some heading to an optional tour of Pompeii and Naples, a few going to the nearby town of Tivoli that contains beautiful gardens and some staying in Rome to visit other attractions. Bishop Zubik scheduled a 7:15 a.m. Mass in the Hungarian chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica, for those who don’t mind rising early and don’t have anywhere else to be.
Saturday will be a day for traveling to Assisi. Buon viaggio!