Nationals Park Becomes a Church

Well, it looks like the pope won't be strolling down Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk when he enters Nationals Park to celebrate Mass on Thursday.

As explained by Archbishop of Washington Donald W. Wuerl yesterday afternoon, the pontiff will enter the park via right field, and, at 9:30 a.m., do a lap of the field in the popemobile.

Then he'll exit, change into vestments for the Mass and re-emerge.

This afternoon, workers were covering the field and starting to erect the stage, which is in the centerfield area. (In other words, if you ended up with tickets behind home plate, you're kind of far away from the action, unlike a Nats' game.)

Wuerl vows that everything will be ready.

Advertising (even the big stuff flanking the jumbotron) will be covered up and, no, of course they won't be selling beer on Thursday.

Those with the closest seats are the two sections flanking the stage. Stage right will be the choirs and stage left will be high school and college students. There are also about 5,000 seats on the field. (Warning: if you know you have a seat on the field, eat a huge breakfast. You won't have access to the snack bars and the little snack they're going to give you when you arrive won't go very far).

"When the Mass starts, I think we're going to recognize that we have been successful at taking this venue and making it a holy space--a sacred space," said a beaming Wuerl. He spent yesterday afternoon touring the site. "I think you are going to see that Nationals Park became a church--if only for one day."

But before that are lots of logistics. Wuerl pledges that they can get 46,000 people through Communion in less than 20 minutes. Three-hundred deacons will be stationed around the park, so Catholics won't have to leave their section to receive the body and blood of Christ.

Before the Mass, there will be plenty of entertainment on the Jumbotron, starting at 5:30 a.m. That includes videos from local folks as well as 60-second videos from the dozens of dioceses around the country. Gates will open at 5:15 a.m.

To "settle everyone down," says Wuerl, a music program by the four choirs will start about an hour before the pope arrives. Snack bars will be closed during the Mass.

By Jacqueline L. Salmon |  April 15, 2008; 12:37 PM ET
Previous: The Traffic Snarls Have Already Begun | Next: No More Tickets to See the Pope


Please email us to report offensive comments.

As a Catholic, many people ask me what I think of this pope. What do I think of Pope Benedict? Reflecting today helped me realize that I honestly could care less about Pope Benedict personally - what his personality is like (I assume he's a very kind man) what he says, what he looks like, where he's from. What I think about him is that he's Pope. It's what he stands for universally. To me he is the successor of the apostle Peter- a proof that Jesus lived, walked (even died and rose) on this Earth, as a human being. This is the most important thing I think about him (not to mention he's also the successor of John Paul II who to me was the greatest man that ever lived during my lifetime)

Posted by: Angela Wildermuth | April 15, 2008 1:53 PM

Sholdn't the pope say that all two legged creatures are God's children, also women and should be treasted equally by the church hierarcy?


Posted by: John Ssmart | April 15, 2008 3:15 PM

Hey, no problem -- a stadium owned by a government in the United States becomes a church? No problem, how about some law suits? Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? My taxes partially funded this stadium. We don't do state funded religion in this country.

Would someone please press this point?

METRO ads for the "papal mass"?

Will we do the same thing if/when the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Patriarch of Constantinople, or major international leaders of Judaism or Islam visit this country?

How about some fairness here. And enforce our laws.

Posted by: bearingacross | April 15, 2008 4:05 PM

The Pope is more than a just religious leader. He is a world leader who makes this world a better place. Like any other event that comes through Nat's park the church is paying a hefty fee for the use of the space. These are Dollars that are being used to make such a facility less expensive for you through a peaceful congregation of your countrymen. If there is anything more American than Americans congregating through their own will in the largest possible venue to celebrate their own freedom of religion I would like to hear about it.

If there was ever a large enough following and enough of a need I am sure that the Church of England would rent out such a large and prestigious place for a service. Until then, let us 26 million Americans who are Catholic enjoy this moment.

Posted by: eaw | April 15, 2008 5:56 PM

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