- The Washington Times - Monday, May 10, 2004

To the sound of drums and bagpipes, officers from local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies formed a color guard to honor colleagues who died last year in the line of duty.

They filled the street in front of the Church of St. Patrick in the city yesterday before the start of the annual Blue Mass.

“It’s a way to not forget,” said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer.

Chief Gainer, who was co-chairman of this year’s event, said the Mass provides officers with the opportunity to connect with the deceased officers who shared the experience of police work — even if they didn’t know them personally.

The Blue Mass has its roots in the Depression-era memorial services held to remember fallen police officers and pray for those who face the daily dangers of law enforcement. It has been a tradition in Washington for 10 years, with a service held in a 120-year-old church located just a few blocks from the White House.

In addition to officers from the District, Fairfax County and Prince George’s County police departments, officers from the U.S. Park Police, the Uniformed Secret Service and the Metro Transit Police attended the service. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and ranking officials from several other federal law-enforcement agencies were seen among the uniformed officers filling the 500-seat sanctuary.

“‘Peace be with you’ always has special meaning at a Blue Mass because you are the people who keep the peace,” Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, told the officers during a short homily.

The leader of 550,000 Roman Catholics in the District and five Maryland counties acknowledged that police officers have played a special role in helping the Catholic Church work through the abuse scandals of the past few years.

Cardinal McCarrick, who was in Rome last week, said he discussed plans for the Mass with Pope John Paul II during a 15-minute papal audience, and the pontiff sent a special blessing to be shared with the officers.

“He knows what you do for the peace of God’s kingdom and the peace of the world,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

The Blue Mass is one of a series of events being held in the District to mark National Police Week, which runs through Saturday.

Thousands of officers from throughout the nation are expected to be on hand Thursday evening for a candlelight rededication of the National Police Memorial.

A curved stone wall in Judiciary Square, about four blocks from the U.S. Capitol, bears 16,600 names of police officers who have died in the line of duty. Of those names, 145 are of officers who died last year.

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