Among those welcoming the Holy Father was a large contingent of bishops and priests from the Archdiocese of Newark, led by Archbishop John J. Myers.
With the punctuality that marked Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to the United States since his election just over three years ago, the pontiff arrived at 9:15 a.m. to thunderous applause that erupted outside the cathedral and continued inside as he processed down the middle aisle. The applause reached a crescendo when the Holy Father stopped on the top step of the altar, turned around and opened his arms in greeting.
For Most Rev. John W. Flesey, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, the Mass at St. Patrick's was an "awesome experience." He was struck by the "constant outpouring of affection and an attitude of reverence" that permeated the Mass. Bishop Flesey saw the Mass as "a tribute to the role of the papacy itself."
"Fantastic" was the reaction of Msgr. Ronald Rozniak, Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Ridgewood. When Pope John Paul II visited the Archdiocese of Newark in 1995, Msgr. Rozniak was co-chair of the event and therefore not able to fully participate due to the many details he needed to monitor. This time, however, he was able to do so in what he termed a "great moment" for all.
Msgr. Rozniak said he was moved by the fervor and spirituality that permeated the Mass. One could "sense the presence of the Spirit," while the liturgy was "beautiful and inspiring," he said.
Msgr. Richard Arnhols, pastor of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Bergenfield, said he was able to reach out and touch the pope's hand as he processed up a side aisle at the end of Mass. Msgr. Arnhols, who also serves as the Vicar for Pastoral Life, saw the Mass as the "perfect expression of the Church," which emphasized unity and focused on the need to "bring hope to the world."
Father Charles Pinyan, the pastor of Guardian Angel Parish in Allendale, praised the pope's visit to the United States, noting the infectious "joy, energy and excitement" generated by the Holy Father. Father Pinyan described the pope as a "gentle teacher" for all members of the U.S. Church.
Father Philip Latronico, chaplain of the Community of God's Love in Rutherford, felt blessed as he obtained a special seat through the efforts of the coordinator of the New York event, whose brother is a member of Father Latronico's community. Because of his second row seat, Father Latronico received the pope's blessing as he passed by after vesting.
During his homily, Pope Benedict said "I am happy to celebrate this Mass with you, who have been chosen by the Lord, who have answered His call, and who devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness, the spread of the Gospel and the building up of the Church in faith, hope and love. In this country, the Church's mission has always involved drawing people 'from every nation under heaven' (cf. Acts 2:5) into spiritual unity and enriching the body of Christ by the variety of their gifts.
"As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America," the pope continued. "In the finest traditions of the Church in this country, may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer.