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In Final Homily, Benedict Offers Personal Challenges

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Transcript of Homily

At a Mass celebrated in Yankee Stadium before 58,000 participants on the last day of his visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI took one more occasion to address the young people of America with a personal message. He also challenged the Church in America to carry on the legacy of the great leaders of the past.

“My dear young friends,” he said in his homily, delivered from his papal chair on the platform that served as a sanctuary in a stadium transformed into a 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, today and forever’ and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him.”

Returning to a constant theme of his six-day visit, he connected freedom to truth.

“These are the truths that set us free!” he continued. “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.”

The reference to protecting the unborn child drew loud applause from the crowd.

The Holy Father also made a personal appeal for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as he had the evening before during a youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary.

“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?”

Knights on Duty

Knights of Columbus were evident throughout the Mass. A Fourth Degree contingent served as escorts for clergy distributing holy Communion, guiding them to assigned spots in the stands to meet the faithful.

During Mass a plaque that was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus to commemorate the pope’s visit to the stadium was displayed near the altar. The 105-pound bronze plaque, which is 39.5 inches tall and 27 inches wide, will be placed in Monument Park, along with plaques memorializing Masses celebrated at Yankee Stadium by Pope Paul VI (Oct. 4, 1965) and Pope John Paul II (Oct. 2, 1979). The other two plaques were also commissioned by the Knights.

Members of the Order from throughout the United States also attended. Thomas Ciborski, New Jersey state deputy, said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I could sit here 12 more hours if I had to waiting for the Holy Father to come.” His wife, Noreen, said she was sick and could not attend the Mass in 1995 celebrated by John Paul II at Aqueduct Raceway, which was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. “So I’m doubly thrilled to be here today,” she said.

Anthony Preziosi, past state deputy of New York, said, “This is the most awesome experience in my life. This whole experience of the Holy Father being in America has made be prouder than ever to be a Knight and a Catholic. Our Fourth Degree has been at two Masses, the pope mentioned Father McGivney in his homily, and so many brother Knights and their families are here sharing in the this great moment for our Church.”

Church in America

As he has done throughout his trip, Benedict expressed in his homily great joy and hope for the Church in America. He challenged Catholics in the nation to greater faith and works of charity.

“This, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of St. Peter sets before you this day,” he said. “Follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before! 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 to the defense of life, in the education if the young, in the 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!”

Ground Zero Blessing

Earlier in the day the pope descended into the former foundation of the Twin Towers that became a vault of death for thousands of New Yorkers, the pope prayed for peace in a violent world at Ground Zero. In a simple ceremony that included a candle-lighting and blessing of the ground with holy water, the Holy Father was escorted into the site in lower Manhattan by Cardinal Edward Egan of New York.

“Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred,” the pope prayed. “We seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events. … Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.”

 


 

 

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