Great, but With Some Regrets
Here are some observations from my colleague, Daniela Deane, who watched the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI at Andrews Air Force Base today. More than 800 people -- clergy members, White House supporters and members of the military and their families -- crowded onto bleachers on the tarmac to cheer the arrival of the pontiff, who looked quite merry after his flight. (But then, he probably wasn't crammed into the middle seat with a mini-bag of pretzels for a meal):
Everyone was really excited to see the pope in person -- but there were some regrets: The zoom on the camera didn't work; they didn't get to touch him and they certainly didn't get to go for coffee with him and ask him what life after death was like.
But it was still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone who went to Andrews Air Force Base this afternoon.
"It was fantastic," said Frances McConnell from Forestville, Maryland. "I guess I would've liked to see him a bit closer though." McConnell, 66, pulled out her camera when Benedict XVI walked by in his white robe, white skullcap and red shoes, hoping to get closer to him by way of the zoom. "It didn't work, though," she said. "I'm not sure why. It was still great."
Maelynn Mendoza, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Bishop McNamara High School, said if she could, she would've told the pope: "Hi! Welcome to America. I hope you like it." She admitted, though, that if she did actually get to talk to the pope, her "heart would be pounding so much, I wouldn't have made any sense. I would've asked him something stupid like how his flight was or something."
Mendoza's schoolmate, Abby Edejer, 15, says it would've been great to "get to touch him" or even "go for a coffee with him and really talk."
Mendoza said that if she did get to ask him some questions, she'd want to know, "what he does for fun?"
In a more spiritual vein, she'd like to ask him "what is life really like after death and purgatory, what's that like?"
Bishop Martin Holley of Washington, one of the many U.S. church dignitaries at the arrival ceremony, said Pope Benedict was "bringing hope to us." Asked if we needed more hope here in the United States, Holley said: "There's always more room for faith, hope and love."
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