Saturday, August 20, 2005
Cologne, Day 5
I got up early again, hoping to catch breakfast for my first time here, and got it. At 9:00 I met with Fr. EJB in the lobby. He was anxious to get the car, so we headed out immediately, caught a taxi, and found the car with no problems. We caught up on the way: he had found a spot up next to the river, and had seen the papal boat sail by. The crowds, apparently, were even worse than around the cathedral. Once we got the car moving we headed back to the hotel, then met with Msgr. Fay to walk across town to St. Pantaleon's church, where the papal meeting with seminarians was to occur in the late afternoon. Although the pope wasn't actually due until 5:00pm, we were required to arrive by 11am. So a one-hour meeting was an all-day affair.
We arrived at 10:30, and a long line had already formed, of seminarians and those who worked in priestly formation. I ran into Fr. Bashista, the vocation director of my diocese, in the line. Security was tight, even though we had already gone through several checks just to get our tickets. Metal detectors, and the like. After making it through, seminarians and formators were simply wandering around the huge church courtyard, with nothing to do but wait six hours. We found out a mass was beginning in the church itself in ten minutes, so Msgr. and Fr. EJB ran in. They stopped me at the gates, priests only, but Fr. EJB called out that I was his personal 'sacristan' and he never went anywhere without me. 'Sacristan?' Anyway, it got me in, and I followed them into the church and sacristy. Of course, that made me the only one in the building wearing a tie, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid, but I sat in the corner and prayed my office, which at least made me look a little more priestly.
Mass began shortly. The whole mass, for what reasons I don't know, was in Latin, except the readings, which were in French. The French connection was made clear after mass, when I was checking out the church and saw a big full-size photograph right on the edge of the sanctuary of a face which couldn't be anyone but St. John Vianney. A closer inspection revealed that the glass display case next to the photograph was nothing less than the heart of the Cure d'Ars. Awesome. The priests were kneeling in veneration, many kissing the edge of the case. I did the same. On my way out of the church I nearly ran into a swiftly-moving priest, who someone else informed me was currently the pastor of Ars. Cool.
After the mass we tried to get out the back of the church, but the police had closed the massive iron gate to keep the throngs of seminarians from pushing their way in. So we went out the side exit, through the sacristy, and found ourselves right behind the stage set up for the Pope. We were actually in the VIP section, and a few bishops and cardinals had already arrived. Msgr. Fay and Fr. EJB started schmoozing, hoping that they could inconspicuously blend in and stay in the section. I managed to stay for only about half an hour, until my tie gave me away. Despite protestations (Fr. EJB even got Cardinal McCarrick to insist that I was his personal attendant), I was roughly led away by the police. Fr. EJB, though we didn't meet again until late in the evening, was escorted out only a half hour later (Fay, with his full cassock, looked enough like a Cardinal that he stayed in.)
I made my way into the seminarian section, where I met a couple of friendly seminarians from Freiburg, and a pair of huge Polish seminarians from Krakow. I ended up near the front of the seminarian section, only a hundred feet or so from the papal stage. The crowd started getting worked up as the 5:00 arrival approached. Chants of 'Benedetto!' were interspersed with 'Giovanni Paulo', showing the wonderful continuity, as the 'JPII Generation' embraces their new Pontiff. The other chant, from the French, was 'Viva la Papa!', to which the crowd responded, 'Viva!!' A sort of introduction began, in which the seminarians were greeted by representatives, who announced that of the 5,000 attendees, 59 countries were represented. As they read off the names, pockets of the crowd erupted in cheers, and flags were waved aggressively.
After many hours of waiting, the Holy Father finally arrived. We saw his popemobile pull up on the huge screen above, and the seminarians went crazy, the chants starting up again full force. When he finally entered the courtyard, I climbed up over a security fence onto a wall of the church, to get a good view. Unfortunately it didn't help. Please note: our Pontiff is short. I could see every one of the Cardinals escorting him, but the Holy Father is so darned short that I couldn't see him at all until he made his way out of the other side of the crowd. The crowd continued to go wild, and wouldn't quiet down. He stood up and waved for a while, but calmly. The descriptions of him as a bit 'wooden' are not far from the truth. He lacks completely the theatrics of John Paul II, who would have been working the crowd with his actor's charisma. After giving about three waves, Benedict just walked to his chair and sat down. No remarks, nothing: he looked a bit nervous, like he didn't know what else to do.
The evening was actually a vesper's service, led by the Holy Father. Almost entirely in Latin. The psalms were interspersed with vocation testimonies from seminarians. After the reading, the Holy Father gave a few brief remarks, reading off a prepared speech, which he read in German, English and Italian. He speaks all fluently, though his English accept is awfully thick. At the end of the service, he waved again briefly, and then departed through the crowd. I was very close, could see him clearly, and got some great shots. We were a bit disappointed, though, that his performance was so scripted, every word and every motion. Seemed to lack any spontaneity at all. Through the vespers service he remained stoic, looking straight ahead, his mouth whispering the psalms. But the seminarians clearly love him, and the energy was high.
No sooner had I walked out of the courtyard of the church when the downpour began, and I was soaked to the skin in minutes. I ducked under a news van and waited it out. Once it died down a bit, I ran back to the hotel. We were hours late for the youth gathering that Fr. EJB and I were sponsoring, but we had had others take the reigns for us, so it was going well. We missed dinner, but managed to get some pizza out of the kitchen. The youth were doing stations of the cross, and once they finished and began dispersing, we invited the rest of the staff (the emcee, some musicians) downstairs for drinks. A few bishops had shown up for the event, so we naturally invited them down too. Skylstad, Boland (retired from Kansas City-St Joseph), O'Brien (Military) and Dolan (Milwaukee) joined us for a while. Schnurr and Kote saw us going for drinks and tagged along (they had, today, finally found their diocesan pilgrims, for which I congratulated them).
O'Brien was giddy: he had shown up ten minutes late for the bishops' boat yesterday (the bishops of each continent got their own boat, which sailed in front of the papal boat). The boat had departed, and the only boat left was the papal boat, which they promptly shoved him onto. Geez. Most here are very unimpressed with the organization of this WYD, as compared to previous ones. Despite the reputation of the Germans, everything seems quite disorganized and last-minute. The Germans seemed utterly unprepared for this many people. One of the musicians had been at a catechetical site earlier in the day with Cardinal Arinze. He said Arinze had the kids rolling on the floor the whole time, mostly because he would heartily laugh at his own jokes every other sentence. Wish I had seen him. Another musician had been with Cardinal Pell, who apparently gave an excellent presentation.
Afterwards I came up to use the computer, waited nearly an hour for it and then gave up (which is why you'll get two days worth today). God bless, and please keep the pilgrims in your prayers. Tomorrow is the big day: everyone heads into Cologne for the vigil at Marienfield, for the final mass on Sunday.
# posted by Jamie : 4:22 AM