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United States of America
The Pope and his addressing the issue of clergy and sexual abuse by priests.
Sister Patricia Marie McClain and others fromLial Catholic School in Whitehouse know they may not get close - butthey're still hoping for a chance to see the Pope.Early tomorrow morning, Sister Pat and 34 Lial students and teachers will board a bus and head to Washington.They'll be in the nation's capital the same time as Pope Benedict XVI,who arrives on Shepherd One Tuesday morning, but they will not be ableto attend the Papal Mass at Nationals Park on Wednesday."We've been told that Mass tickets are an impossibility," Sister Pat said. "They had 150,000 requests for 46,000 tickets."Free tickets were distributed to Catholic dioceses around the country,and the Toledo diocese, which has 303,000 members in 19 counties, wasallotted just 25 for the Washington Mass and 50 for Sunday's Mass atYankee Stadium in New York.But Sister Pat and the Lial group - which already had planned a trip toWashington before the Pope's visit was announced - are undaunted.They plan to stake out a spot along the Popemobile's route to the baseball stadium."We hope we will see the Pope," Sister Pat said.

The first U.S. visit by Pope Benedict, who turns 81 on Wednesday,includes stops in just two cities, Washington and New York, but isgenerating excitement - and expectations - nationwide."I think it's a great opportunity for America to get to know this Popea little better, and I think he's coming at a really important time,"said Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Toledo CatholicDiocese. "I think there's a lot of turmoil now, and I think we need hisholy presence."Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair said the Pontiff will be offering spiritual leadership to his American flock."I think the Pope is primarily a pastor of souls. He's a bishop buthe's a very special bishop, the bishop of Rome, and therefore thesuccessor for St. Peter," Bishop Blair said. "Jesus said to feed mylambs, tend my sheep, and he tells St. Peter to confirm yourbrethren in the faith. So when the Pope comes, that's what his visit ismeant to do: to confirm us in the faith, to feed us sound teachings, tobring people together around a very positive, joyful expression oftheir faith."Bishop Blair and retired Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly are among 350U.S. bishops invited to a private prayer service with Pope BenedictWednesday in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the ImmaculateConception.Among the highlights of the Pope's six-day visit are a meeting withPresident Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the White House; a talk toCatholic educators, and an interfaith meeting in Washington.In New York, he will speak at the United Nations on Friday morning;celebrate Mass for priests, deacons, and members of religious orders atSt. Patrick's Cathedral on Saturday, and visit Ground Zero for aprivate prayer on Sunday.The Pope also will visit a synagogue in New York."I think that shows a great deal of love for all humanity," RabbiEdward Garsek of Toledo's Congregation Etz Chayim said of the synagoguestop. "That visit makes a statement within itself because historically,there have been just so many concerns in the past. I think it's a goodthing."The Rev. David Reinhart, president of Cardinal Stritch High School, andDeacon Victor DeFilippas won drawings for the Toledo diocese's twotickets to the St. Patrick's Cathedral Mass."I'm looking forward to it," Father Reinhart said. "I just think it's agreat opportunity to celebrate Mass and thank God in a smaller settingthan some of the larger ones, and with people in similar situations inlife."He joked about having his name picked out of a hat."I wish I was chosen somehow because I was a great priest," FatherReinhart said. "But just being able to listen to the Pope - anyinsight, any kind of inspiration he can give us would be appreciated."The Rev. Eric Schild, a Toledo diocesan priest who was ordained inJune, will be leading a group from St. Wendelin High School in Fostoria.The school obtained tickets to the Yankee Stadium Mass from the Toledodiocese headquarters, and Father Schild was then selected to distributeCommunion at the service."It is such an honor and I think it will be a spiritually upliftingexperience just to be able to distribute Communion in the Pope'spresence," Father Schild said.About six years ago, he had a much more close-up encounter with Pope Benedict, who at the time was Cardinal Josef Ratzinger."I was a student at John Carroll University in Cleveland and took atrip to Rome as part of a class," he said. "We were supposed to meetPope John Paul II that day, but he was sick. They said you could go toMass instead with Cardinal Ratzinger, and I took them up on the offer."After the Mass, he approached the cardinal and future pope and asked if he could take a photo of the two together."He said, 'Oh, absolutely.' I have that picture hanging in my office. I treasure it," Father Schild said.He is hopeful that Pope Benedict's U.S. visit inspires all Americans, not just Catholics."Certainly we have issues in our society, not just Catholic issues butissues in general. And I think for him to come, I hope it would boostour faith as a nation and our reliance upon God as opposed to relyingon ourselves," Father Schild said.Joe and Tammie Shank of Oregon, members of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish inEast Toledo, were among the 60,000 who will be attending Mass in YankeeStadium.Mr. Shank, 42, said he hopes the papal visit will motivate Americans"to practice and do what the church asks of us and what God asks of us."Pope Benedict's visit is "a big deal," he said, "because our AmericanCatholic Church could use a boost. It's kind of weird, though. Peoplemight look at us Catholics as making him a god. It's not like that.He's the successor to Peter, and Jesus set it up for people on Earth tohave a physical head to look to who represents Christianity."Mr. Shank is grateful for the opportunity to attend a Papal Mass."It may be a once in a lifetime chance to celebrate the Mass with himpersonally - well, me and all the other people there," he said.Richard Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic studies at the University ofToledo, has three different levels of reflections on the papal visit:his dreams, hopes, and expectations."My dreams are based on the idea that when you cut through everything,this is a pastor visiting one of his churches," Mr. Gaillardetz said.The "dream" is that Pope Benedict will treat his trip as a fact-findingmission and "listen to the people and get a sense of what life is likeon the ground," he said.His hope is that the Pope takes time to listen to American pastors and get a firsthand look at their situations.Mr. Gaillardetz also believes the Pontiff should meet with victims of clerical sexual abuse."These are people. They are not an abstraction. Their lives have beenhurt," Mr. Gaillardetz said. "I hope that in the midst of his very busyformal schedule, he could sneak in a few things including visiting somevictims of clerical sexual abuse."The Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, told theAssociated Press last week that Pope Benedict recognizes the paincaused by the clergy sex abuse crisis and will seek to "open the pathof healing and reconciliation" during his U.S. visit.David Clohessy, national president of the Survivors Network of thoseAbused by Priests, said he believes the Pontiff is planning to meetwith "a hand-picked group of survivors."But "talk is cheap and it protects no one," Mr. Clohessy said.He would rather see Pope Benedict take a stand by disciplining a churchleader "who suspected or knew of child sex crimes and concealed them,"perhaps by "disinviting" them to one of the events.Among the local Catholic educators who will be meeting with the Pope inWashington are Robert Helmer, president of Lourdes College in Sylvania;Jack Altenburger, superintendent of schools for the Toledo diocese;John Hayward, president of Mercy College, and Sister Peg Albert,president of Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich."This is a rare opportunity for him to see firsthand how Catholiceducation has contributed to the overall mission of the Catholic Churchin the United States," Sister Peg said.And Mr. Helmer said, "We expect the Pope will come and reinforce the importance of Catholic education at all levels.""On a trip that has to be planned minute to minute to minute, the factthat he's taking time to talk to us is very significant," Mr.Altenburger said. "It sends a message that Catholic education fromkindergarten to college is important to the Pope."Among the most highly anticipated events on the Pope's schedule is his U.N. address, set for 10:45 a.m. Friday."For me, that's the most important part of his visit and the realreason he's coming here," Mr. Gaillardetz said. "My expectation ishe'll speak frankly about Catholic peace and reconciliation in awar-torn world and emphasize Catholic social teaching, and global andmultilateral solutions toward peace and reconciliation."Contact David Yonke at:
or 419-724-6154.
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