- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000

Yesterday's closing Mass of the Archdiocese of Washington's Eucharistic Congress 2000 painted a mosaic of the Catholic faith that gave life to another meaning of the faith's name: universal.

About 14,000 people gathered in the MCI Center to cap off the Eucharistic Congress a four-day event with workshops focusing on such issues as religion in the media and evangelizing, all the while celebrating the church's faith and the jubilee year proclaimed by Pope John Paul II.

Decked out in traditional dress, people of African, Asian and Hispanic heritage as well as many other cultures participated in a Mass in which languages from every continent were heard.

"It's unique. It's international," said Januarius Asongu of Hyattsville, Md. "It just made me more proud of my faith as a Catholic."

Originally from Cameroon, Mr. Asongu said seeing the wide array of ethnicities gave proof to his belief that Catholicism was a religion without borders.

A jubilee year marks every thousand years since the birth of Christ. The pope also has called for the year 2000 to be a time of self-reflection and dedication to work for social justice, such as human rights and greater tolerance of other religions and cultures.

At the same time the Mass was being held, hundreds of people marched downtown as part of Global Peace Walk 2000, calling on world leaders to quell the violence that has erupted in different parts of the world.

Beginning at the Jefferson Stone near the Washington Monument, marchers representing different faiths and cultures took to the streets, also calling for developed countries to recognize the plight of indigenous people and urging a "reaffirmation of human rights."

Meanwhile, bishops and priests from around the world joined their flock in a common moment of spirituality presented with fanfare at the largest Mass the Archdiocese has ever held.

Local nuns from the late Mother Teresa's order, the Missionaries of Charity, were on hand, as were a group of area nuns whose order, the Carmelites of Port Tobacco, Md., had been cloistered but were allowed to attend the once-in-a-lifetime Mass.

The Rev. William E. Lori, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, said the Mass celebrated the church's diversity, as well as a rekindling of faith for some in the audience.

"The jubilee year has been a wonderful year for people to hear the Gospel again," Father Lori said. "In the archdiocese, we are blessed with a real diversity."

Father Lori said the Mass and the Eucharistic Congress were also a time for Catholics to refocus their faith on the Eucharist, or communion. It is a central tenet of Eucharist that states that during a spiritual process called transubstantiation, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

It was a chance for some to rededicate themselves to their faith.

"For me personally, as a social worker, to see all the different people and different cultures it enlivens me to reach out to people," said Angela Burnford of Burtonsville, Md.

The Mass was an emotional event for Cardinal James A. Hickey, as he presided over what may be the last chance for his flock to wish him well. Cardinal Hickey goes to meet Pope John Paul II on Wednesday, his 80th birthday.

Popes traditionally ask bishops to resign from their administrative duties sometime after their 75th birthdays; Cardinal Hickey did so, but the Vatican turned him down.

The congregation sounded in with a joyful rendition of "Happy Birthday" with French horns and organ for Cardinal Hickey. He has presided over his archdiocese which includes suburban Maryland and the District for 20 years.

"It's a priesthood I have never regretted," a visibly moved Cardinal Hickey said after watching a three-minute video tribute to his life in the church.

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