The Hatchet has just arrived inside Nationals Park and it is still dark outside. The crowds are huge and include priests, nuns, children and adults. About 50,000 people are expected to flow through the gates for the mass. The security is tight with metal detectors, Secret Service and Metropolitan Police around every corner. It is an unusual sight before dawn, but it is the beginning of an extraordinary day with Pope Benedict XVI.
As the sun begins to rise, The Hatchet went to investigate where mass-goers can spend some cash in the stadium. The food options are limited compared to the choices available at a Nationals game. Hot dogs have been replaced with muffins. Beer has been usurped by coffee, which is in very high demand at this early hour. In addition, the food is much cheaper than usual with most items costing only $2. Souvenir prices, however, are about the same with T-shirts costing $20 and posters going for $10.
Slowly, but surely the stadium is beginning to fill up as the pope’s 10 a.m. mass nears. Most people are not in their seats and many are exploring the concourse area. Those who are seated in the converted ballpark are listening to choirs, watching the jumbo screen or investigating the items in the bags that were handed out to all attendees. The bag includes the flag of the Holy See, a program, magazines and brochures.
The crowds are continuing to grow inside the stadium. Long lines of several dozen people are common for souvenirs and food. Many of the seating sections are also filled with people. This includes the converted baseball field that now has several rows of white seats for bishops, cardinals and other VIP attendees including Catholic Congressmen. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) are expected to be among the high-profile Catholics in attendance at the mass.
Several GW students are taking their seats in the stadium. Many of the students are seated with the GW Newman Center near the right field foul post. Student Association Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger and Young America’s Foundation President Sergio Gor are among those present.
Cardinals and bishops are officially entering the stadium in the lead up to the pope’s entrance in about 30 minutes. Everyone has been asked to take their seats.
Pope Benedict has just entered the stadium in his Popemobile and is travelling around the warning track of the baseball field. He is greeted by loud cheers and waving Vatican flags from the sold out crowd at the ballpark.
The mass is beginning. Out of respect for the Catholic mass, The Hatchet will not live-blog during the mass and will resume coverage of the papal mass following the conclusion of the service.
The mass just concluded a short while ago. Throughout the service, the multiculturalism of the United States was emphasized with several songs and prayers said in Spanish and other non-English languages. During his homily, Benedict acknowledged the sexual abuse scandal involving American clergy. He said, “No words of mine can describe the pain.”
This concludes The Hatchet’s live-blogging for the papal mass. Be sure to check out the Web Update later today on GWHatchet.com for more on today’s events.