Pope Benedict XVI delivered a message of peace and hope to close to 60,000 residents at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, April 20, during an afternoon ceremony that wrapped up his visit to the United States.
“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,” Benedict said.
“In this land of freedom and opportunity, the Church has united a widely diverse flock in the profession of the faith,” he continued in what was the first visit by a Pope to Yankee Stadium in almost 30 years.
Thousands of excited visitors flooded the streets surrounding Yankee Stadium around 9 a.m. that day, as they patiently awaited their admittance into the arena to see the Holy Father.
“Viva Papa” a group cheered outside Gate Six, as long lines were slowly shuffled through the numerous security checkpoints.
Prior to Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival, a “Concert of Hope” entertained the crowd of more than 57,000.
Among the performers, Jose Feliciano drummed up an explosive response from the audience when, guitar in hand, he began singing the time-honored classic “Lean On Me.”
Waving papal flags, the Latino population showed their appreciative connection with the world-renowned artist as he ever so smoothly began “Que Sera, Sera.”
Harry Connick, Jr. subsequently took the stage with a well-received anecdote. “People asked me if I’m a practicing Catholic,” he said. “I said, ‘you can’t practice any harder than this. I’m playing for the Pope today.’”
The crowd roared with laughter.
As the two-hour concert commenced, a parade of kite-like doves, began to slowly surround the purple, white and gold papal alter.
“It’s a symbol of peace, so it’s really nice that they did that,” Fordham resident and Our Lady of Mercy Church parishioner Melba Negron said.
In one unexpected moment, an event organizer released a flock of doves from the field, sparking a wild applause that echoed through the stadium.
Belmont resident Lena Franko, who attended the papal mass with friends from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, said the display was a wonderful sign of hope.
“Of course, we’d like to keep that feeling every day,” she said.
Soon thereafter, the famous Popemobile slowly pulled in the arena. Flying gold and white papal flags complimented the crowd’s explosion of excitement.
Throughout the two and a half hour Mass, eager ears soaked in the Holy Father’s sacred message of hope.
“In this land of freedom and opportunity, the church has united a widely diverse flock in the profession of the faith,” Benedict said in English and Spanish.
“That was beautiful,” Franko said, explaining the service was greater than she ever could have imagined. “I saw the pope one and a half years ago, but there’s no comparison,” she explained.
Negron said she’d never forget the day’s experience. “A Mass is the greatest prayer in the world, and to have it done with our Holy Father, there are no words to describe it,” she said.
A flock of 500 priests dispersed throughout the stadium to distribute the Holy Eucharist, an amazing display of organization that lasted just 30 minutes.
“Sharing the consecration of the Eucharist with the Holy Father and with everyone here, that was the best part,” Negron said, adding she was thrilled to participate with “the magnitude of devout Catholics” present at the celebration.
The pope left as he entered, waiving graciously to the swarm of onlookers, all striving to grab a glimpse.
“Everything was just so beautiful,” Franko concluded, proud to say she experienced the life-changing event.
The Mass concluded Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States, which included a celebration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a visit at St. Joseph’s Seminary and a brief stint at Ground Zero. His holiness flew home to the Vatican Sunday evening.
Benedict is the third pope to hold a mass at Yankee Stadium, following Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 1979.