Friday, February 22, 2008

Young Catholics will be some of Pope Benedict XVI’s most enthusiastic fans when he visits Washington in two months.

David Coyne, 30, Silver Spring, aims to be at the April 17 papal Mass at the new Washington Nationals ballpark.

“I will get a ticket somehow and be there,” he said.

Mr. Coyne joined nearly 320 other young people in Ireland’s Four Fields pub in Northwest this week to discuss the upcoming papal visit with Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and to get a chance to win tickets to the Mass.

The event was part of a “Theology on Tap” program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington for Catholics ages 21 to 35, said Christa Lopiccolo, coordinator of young adult ministry with the archdiocese.

The archbishop highlighted the pope’s role to pass on the traditions of Christianity. Catholics regard St. Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, as the first in a line of 265 popes.

Catholics consider Benedict as the modern-day St. Peter who delivers the message of Christ to the church, Archbishop Wuerl said.

He noted a “high level of enthusiasm” among the young adults at the pub Tuesday night.

“These are young people who really do have great questions: How shall I live? What’s the meaning of life? What’s the purpose of life? … I think they see in the pope answers to those questions because the pope reflects the voice of Christ,” Archbishop Wuerl said.

During a question-and-answer session with the young adults, Archbishop Wuerl described his experience with Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, when he served as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He described Benedict as “extraordinarily learned” and “just a very gentle and kind person” who would greet people at the end of meetings.

As bishop of the diocese of Pittsburgh for 18 years before his 2006 appointment to the Archdiocese of Washington, he traveled to Rome to report to Vatican officials every five years.

Cardinal Ratzinger “would ask a question and then hear what you had to say. That’s pretty impressive,” Archbishop Wuerl said.

He predicted that the papal message in the United States would be the standard Gospel, tracing back to the beginnings of Christianity.

“I look forward to the message he’s going to bring. It’s going to be rejuvenating. It’s going to be a whole renewal of the faith of the people in this community,” he said.

The papal visit to the United States will be the first since Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis in 1999.

“You can gauge the importance of the visit by the role he has in the world as head of the whole universal church and the message he brings, which will be a message of hope. It’ll be a message of peace. It’ll be a message of love,” the archbishop said.

Miss Lopiccolo said the audience on Tuesday exceeded the typical crowd for “Theology on Tap” events because of the archbishop’s message and because of the raffle of six tickets to the April 17 Mass.

One of the raffle winners was Julia Hall, 26, a teacher at Mother of God School in Gaithersburg.

“I am just, you know, so honored and just beside myself, really. I … love our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, and just to be able to have the chance that very few people have to actually be in the same stadium with him is just, you know, one of my greatest dreams,” she said.

Deborah Hollingsworth of Silver Spring became a Catholic last Easter. Benedict, elected April 19, 2005, is her first pope as a Catholic.

She said she would be pleased to see the pope in Washington even if she could not acquire a ticket the Mass.

The Vatican has scheduled at least two “popemobile” trips near Catholic University in Northeast so that Benedict can greet the public, said Susan Gibbs, archdiocesan spokeswoman.

Jennifer Dellacrosse of Silver Spring, a lifelong Catholic, described John Paul as “a good leader” and “a man of upstanding moral character,” but “I think that Cardinal Ratzinger is doing a great job, too. You know, I realize it’s a hard job. Somebody’s got to do it.”

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