Sunday in the Park with the Pope A handful of Hopkins students were among those at Camden Yards... ----------------------------------------------------------------- A few days before Pope John Paul II's Oct. 8 visit to Baltimore, Homewood campus chaplain Sharon Kugler received 10 tickets to the papal Mass at Camden Yards from the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. Of those 10, Kugler allotted seven tickets to students of the Hopkins Interfaith Council. "Both the pope and Cardinal (William) Keeler are very committed to fostering an ecumenical spirit throughout the world," said Kugler. "Having a group of students coming from diverse faiths attend the pope's Mass seemed like a way to honor that goal." Sitting with the seven undergraduates were about 13 other Hopkins students who had received tickets through the Hopkins Catholic student organization. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Tapan Kant OM representative (Hindu Student Association) The papal visit to Baltimore was an exciting event to witness. Our day began early as the seven of us packed into a car at 6:40 a.m. By the time we entered Camden Yards, it was 7:20 a.m., and there was already a big crowd in the stands. The security was quite evident, and big men stood everywhere with earphones and stern faces. Guards with binoculars were also walking around on the stadium roof and on an adjacent building. No one seemed to mind all the security, though, because there was an air of expectation all morning. It was nice to see so many enthusiastic people. It was one of those rare large-scale events that brought people together for a good purpose. The singing in preparation of the pope's arrival was pleasant for the most part with cultural dancing and a choreographed showing of the official logo of the papal visit. Most of the dancers were young children and students of all ages, including some from Hopkins. A history of the Catholics in America was also presented as an educational way to pass time, but everyone seemed to be waiting for the pope. It seemed a little unusual to see people cheering when a live telecast of the pope getting into the plane was shown. People cheered again when the pope's plane was seen landing at BWI. A humbling sight was the procession of bishops to their seats around the main stage. The music became more and more intense and people sang more fervently as the pope drew nearer to the stadium. Then, out of nowhere, Boyz II Men took to the stage just as the pope entered in his popemobile. They could have sung something glorious or holy-sounding, but it had the feel of a modern pop song from their next album and it sounded completely out of place. I guess it didn't matter what it sounded like, because they were almost drowned out by the crowd that cheered and waved as the popemobile circled the track. When the pope finally took his seat and the Mass began, the entire stadium took on a silent and dignified atmosphere. The pope smiled a deep smile and spoke to the entire assembly as a father would to his children. He showed concern for the people and emphasized the need to strengthen faith. Then he discussed the beauty of freedom in America, but cautioned that it is a freedom to do what is right, not freedom to do anything a person pleases. The Mass ended with communion to about 50,000 people. A sight to behold was all of the servers and priests spreading throughout the stadium to serve hosts to the public. The pope's visit was a good experience for Baltimore, and I am glad I got a chance to share in the experience. I owe many, many thanks to campus chaplain Sharon Kugler for the Interfaith Council tickets and her truly humble act of not keeping a ticket for herself. It is comforting to know that so many people have a faith in God. It would be nice to see everyone as enthusiastic about other illuminated sages around the world from all faiths as they are for the pope. Per Almquist President of the Baptist Campus Ministries I have always admired the pope. Although we disagree about many issues--we agree on many as well--but I admire him because of his faith and strength. I have always admired the way he stands up to the rest of the world for issues he believes in, even if he stands alone. Sunday was my first Catholic Mass. I've been to services of a variety of different groups--Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, even a Passover Seder, to name some--but never Catholic. You can learn so much by observing people while they worship, and last Sunday was no different. I am no closer to being Catholic than I was before, but it was inspiring to see the procession of the bishops before the service and the priests serving communion to 50,000 people. So what did Sunday's Mass mean to me? A lot, but what meant even more to me happened a few days before. I know of many people who passed up the opportunity, which may be their only one, to see His Holiness so that others could have that chance. So to those who could have gone but instead said "No, let someone else have the experience," I would like to say 'Thank you.' May your lives be forever changed and enriched by the knowledge of the joy your act gave to others. Jesse Jacob Episcopal Students Association As an Orthodox Christian, I was very interested in going to see His Holiness, John Paul II, pope and patriarch of the Vatican. What people often seem to forget is that not only is His Holiness the spiritual leader to the world's billion Roman Catholics, but also very revered by other Christians as the leader of the Roman Church. Further, many non-Christians also regard the pope with respect and awe, a holy man. Pope John Paul II alluded to both of these issues during his sermon. More than a few times, the pope emphasized the coming of the third millennium as an opportunity for greater dialogue within the Church and drawing to a closer understanding within it. He also stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue and cultural understanding. The fact that the Prayers of the People were recited in different languages like Tagalog, Vietnamese, Spanish and Swahili (among others) reflected the importance of different cultures. Charismatic and magnetic are how I would describe the presence and aura of the pope. But words cannot express the feelings and emotions the pope generates from all types of people. It was indeed a joyful celebration as Jew and Muslim sat side by side observing the papal Mass; it brings hope to the world. Among other things, the pope mentioned the diversity of America, as well as its spiritual and material wealth, and the rich heritage this brings. He exhorted all people to come to a greater understanding, and especially for Americans to use their resources toward this end. This is the true Christian spirit, one of fostering mutual understanding and acceptance. Julie Schames Jewish Students Association When we first got to Camden Yards, I was really surprised. The pre-Mass celebration seemed standard Baltimore style: there were dancing performances on the grass and choral singing. Boyz II Men even performed. The scene became much more religious once the pope himself arrived. I had never attended a Mass before and I really didn't know what to expect from it. I knew some of the rituals but that was it. The one thing that stands out in my mind the most was when various spiritual verses were being recited, each in a different language (there were English translations projected on the television screen). I remember hearing Polish, German, English, Korean, Italian, Vietnamese, Gaelic, French, Spanish, Tagalog and Swahili. That really signified the feeling of underlying spiritual universality I felt. The pope's Mass was not just a Catholic event, nor even just a Christian event. It was a place where anyone appreciative of religion and spirituality would have felt welcomed. Noreen Qureshi Muslim Students Association When we arrived, I was surprised to see the number of vendors that lined the streets. They were selling hats, pins and pennants with the pope's face on them. Priests and nuns stood among the people walking in the crowd. With the jumbotron, popemobile and all the papal memorabilia, there was a stark contrast between the old and new worlds. A few hours before the pope arrived, we took our seats and watched a presentation on prominent Catholic figures in Maryland history. Other entertainment was provided by local schoolchildren and church choirs. People watching from the stands were from all different backgrounds, and strangers treated each other kindly. There was a strong sense of community, on both a local and religious level. But by far the most striking thing for me was the sincerity of emotion. When the pope arrived, the stands were at once intense and utterly peaceful. As a Muslim, attending the papal Mass at Camden Yards was a unique learning experience. Not only did I learn about differences in religion but I also gained an understanding of likenesses. Various religious groups may have differences, but it is important to recognize our common appreciation of sincerity, piety, peace and depth of faith.
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