Pope hosts public stadium Mass
They started arriving as dawn was breaking. Thousands of people wanting to take part in a public mass with the Pope. They bought t-shirts for $20 and posters of His Holiness for $10. By 9:30am when the Pope arrived in his Popemobile the sadium was packed.
The crowd included nuns, families and priests.
Today Pope Benedict XVI held a huge open-air Mass in Washington where he called on Catholics to renew their faith and help the victims of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.
Celebrating Mass under blue skies in center field at Washington's new ballpark, the pope gave a 20-minute homily that focused on hope, repentance, unity and reconciliation among the 70 million Catholics in the United States.
"It is in the context of this hope, born of God's love and fidelity, that I acknowledge the pain which the church in America has experienced as the result of sexual abuse of minors," Benedict said.
"No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention."
He said the church has worked "to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation" and to ensure that children are safe.
But he also urged all Catholics to do their part to repair the damage.
Local churches held lotteries to distribute tickets to the event, and participators had to pass through metal dectectors to get into the event, and nearby roads and bridges were closed.
Benedict is saying Mass at the new Washington Nationals stadium, with a crowd of 46,000 people participating. It is being held on a beautiful, sun-splashed spring morning, with early cheers turning to silence from the faithful as the Mass began in earnest
In his homily, Benedict repeated the core themes of his visit, calling on Catholics to welcome immigrants "within the unity of the Catholic faith," to educate their children in the faith and to evangelize to the world.
The pontiff called for stronger Catholic teaching to prepare youth for the challenges of secular society and for "cultivating a mindset, an intellectual culture which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society."
"Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the church in America but for society as a whole?" Benedict asked.
Despite strong parishes, vital movements and enthusiasm of youth in the USA, he said, the church "senses, often painfully, the presence of division in her midst" in particular Catholics who "embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the gospel."
Benedict called for "the human family to be reconciled in justice and love," and talked of "the true freedom which is God's gift to his children."