Saturday, March 8, 2008

Chicago Tribune: "Pope Benedict Hottest Ticket in Two Towns"

The pope -- hottest ticket in 2 towns, by Manya A. Brachear. Chicago Tribune March 7, 2008:

It doesn't matter to Rev. Charles Fanelli that Pope Benedict XVI lacks the panache of his predecessor John Paul II. The vicar of Christ and pastor of the Catholic world does not need charisma to draw a crowd.

That's why Fanelli, who has seen not one but two of Benedict's predecessors, hopes to be one of the few, the proud and the doggone lucky to win permission to see the pope.

"I admire his teaching so much," said Fanelli, 62, pastor of St. Thomas More parish on the South Side. "He really speaks so well to the Western world. He just hits it right between the eyes. I'm sure he's going to say something very important to the North Americans. It'd be nice to be there when he says it and see how he says it."

For most Catholics, a mass celebrated by the pope is the chance of a lifetime. Since he became pontiff in 2005, Benedict, 80, has traveled mostly in Europe. His only overseas travel was to Brazil last year. That said, the papal visit will likely be his only trip to the U.S. during his papacy.

That has many Catholics still chasing tickets for two of the pope's appearances. . . .

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Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese of Washington, said a majority of tickets to Nationals Park have gone to the 140 parishes in Washington and neighboring dioceses in Maryland and Virginia. Other dioceses received tickets based on the number they got from New York and the poignancy of their personal appeals, Gibbs said.

For example, more than 20 faithful from Fargo, N.D., will attend the pope's mass in Nationals Park, among them 16 youth and chaperons from the Ft. Tottem Sioux Indian Reservation who could not raise enough money to travel to Rome or Australia where Pope Benedict XVI will host World Youth Day.

Teresa Hefland of St. Francis Borgia said she looks forward to attending mass with the masses. Though she saw Pope Benedict last year as part of a smaller audience in Rome, she said the crowds will serve to remind the pope's flock of the church's unity. She described the pope as "a magnetic force" that will draw the American faithful together to pray.

"Being with brothers and sisters brings us closer together," she said. "There's no one closer to God than the pope."

Kathy Siniawski of St. Thomas More agreed. To her, it's impossible to separate the power of the pope's presence from the intensity and devotion of the crowds who come to see him.

"We're very blessed to have him as our pope," said Siniawski, who will take medals of St. Thomas More, her parish's namesake and St. Rita, patron saint of impossible cases, to be blessed by Benedict. "We're blessed to have him walk on our land. Blessed that he's coming to New York to bless us all."