Saturday, 2:15 PM
For the third time in history, a pope today will celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium, and the crowd is huge and exuberant.
The crowd of 57,000, many of whom have been here since 9 a.m., was entertained by Stephanie Mills, singing songs from "The Wiz" as well as Supremes covers, and Harry Connick Jr., who said that now, when he's asked whether he's a practicing Catholic, he can say, "I can't practice any better than this -- I'm playing for the pope!" After the singing, the perimeter of the field was surrounded by young men and women clad in white, holding aloft giant, fluttering, paper birds. There are also a variety of high school bands and several choirs performing as priests process onto the infield.
The stage set for the liturgy is spectacular -- a diamond of white, yellow, and purple constructed over the infield, with yellow and white ribbons billowing inward toward the pitcher's mound, above which the papal crest is suspended. The flower-bedecked sanctuary rises just above second base; the gold and red seal of Pope Benedict XVI is hanging over a throne from which the pope will preside. The outfield is being unused. It's overcast and in the high 50s here.
Most of the worshipers in the stands got tickets through parishes in New York and four other archdioceses that are marking bicentennials this year, Baltimore, Boston, Louisville, and Philadelphia. The crests of those dioceses are hanging in the stadium, and their archbishops, including Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, will concelebrate the Mass. Those dioceses also got extra allocations of tickets for the Mass, and there are 3,000 Bostonians here.
The stadium is surrounded by security. I came in on a press bus from Manhattan, and as we were escorted by police through the perimeter, we could see that the streets around the stadium are barricaded with orange dumptrucks weighed down with sand. There are heavily armed security personnel outside and inside the stadium. Security closed off the stadium at 1 p.m., and said they wouldn't allow anyone in starting 90 minutes before the Mass.
The crowd is shouting, waving, and screaming as the pope prepares to enter the field in his popemobile, and the Mass will begin shortly.
This is the third papal Mass at Yankee Stadium -- which the Yankees say is a record for any US venue. Pope Paul VI said Mass here in 1965, and Pope John Paul II in 1979 (that was also the year he visited Boston).
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff
To read all of our dispatches about the papal trip, click here.
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