With the Holy Father in Washington D.C.

The Holy Father’s pastoral visit to the United States has already been a great grace and a great blessing for us. I am particularly delighted at the Holy Father’s desire to meet with Boston survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, as I will further explain later in the blog.


I will be focusing on the Washington leg of the Holy Father’s Apostolic trip to the United States on this week’s posting.
At the welcoming ceremony held on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday morning Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush both spoke very eloquently.


Thousands of people, many Catholics, were gathered at that historic place, which is a symbol of our nation, to welcome him and to sing happy birthday to him. It was very moving.



We were very proud to see Marianne Glendon, from Boston, sitting there in the front row as our U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.


Ambassador Glendon also greeted the pope upon
the Holy Father’s arrival to the Andrews air force base

During his remarks at the welcoming program, the president stressed the importance of faith to the American people. He talked about how millions of people every day bend their knees before their maker and ask for God’s help and blessing on their lives. He underscored the importance of the religious message to the community and for the common good. Following the president’s speech, the Holy Father spoke, and it was quite obvious how much he appreciates America — our history and our accomplishments.

Then, the Lord’s Prayer and the Battle Hymn of the Republic were sung, and there was a 21-gun salute. You could see the cannons off in the distance at the end of the Mall. Also, a drum and bugle corps in revolutionary military uniforms paraded by the Holy Father.


Afterwards we were taken into the White House to greet the president and Mrs. Bush and the Holy Father was presented with a huge birthday cake.


The Holy Father acknowledged the crowd
after they spontaneously sang “Happy Birthday” to him


Happy birthday!


The Holy Father met privately with the president
at the White House

From the White House, the Holy Father went to the apostolic nunciature in his popemobile.


The enthusiasm of the people wanting to welcome and greet the Holy Father on the streets of Washington was impressive. The secret service has said there have been more people on the streets for the pope than there were for recent presidential inaugurations.




– – –

Later, I was part of the group of cardinals and officers of the bishops’ conference who had lunch with the Holy Father at the nunciature. The Nuncio had prepared another birthday cake. This time, it was in the shape of St. Peter’s Basilica and was truly a work of art.


Leaving the nunciature after lunch



– – –

That afternoon, the bishops’ conference gathered with the Holy Father to pray vespers and to hear his address to us at the crypt of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.








He was most eloquent in calling us to spiritual renewal, to deepen our life of prayer and to a renewed effort at evangelization and announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ in today’s world.


Pope Benedict answered three questions — one about vocations, another about encouraging Sunday Mass attendance and a third about the challenges of secularization in our culture. The Holy Father’s discourse and his answers were, as usual, clear and filled with that great ability to teach that he has. He is able to teach the Gospel message in a profound, theological way but at the same time in a way that is accessible.



I was happy to see so many youth everywhere we went, greeting the pope


– – –

The following morning, the pope celebrated Mass at Nationals Park stadium in Washington.


There was a great sense of reverence even though it was held in a sport’s arena. It was obvious that the people were very joyful and enthusiastic in their acclaims for the Holy Father. I found the event very uplifting.



Spanish language was often used at the Mass, and other languages were represented in the prayers of the faithful and at other moments.



Placido Domingo sang the “Panis Angelicus” at the end of the Mass and then he approached the Holy Father to kiss his ring. It was “el broche de oro” — the perfect finale — to the event.


In the first row, I could see Justice Roberts and his family sitting next to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and his wife Dorian. It was just a glorious celebration.


The Holy Father’s words were very inspiring. Once again he did talk about the need for the Church to heal the clergy abuse crisis and to express our pastoral love and concern for the victims, all of those who have suffered so much.


His talk was a beautiful call to a second Pentecost. That renewal comes through opening our hearts to the risen Christ so that we can go out and joyfully announce the risen Savior whom we have met and whom we adore in faith. It was just a magnificent homily that inspirited everyone.




– – –

In the afternoon, we gathered in the chapel at the nunciature for a meeting with the Holy Father and a group of five clergy abuse survivors from Boston. Father John Connolly and Barbara Thorp accompanied me at the meeting. I was delighted at the pope’s invitation to speak with these people.

We prayed together, and there were a few moments of silence. Then I addressed the Holy Father and told him that for us this abuse crisis has been a wound in the body of Christ. It has caused so much suffering in the life of our Church, but we welcomed him as our shepherd, representing Christ, the Good Shepherd, to help us in this process of healing and to give us his words of hope and encouragement.

Pope Benedict addressed the group and told us how this issue has weighed heavily on his heart, how he has been praying long and hard for all of those who have been affected by this crisis. He underscored the need for us to pray for holy priests in the Church.

Then, we presented him with a book of first names of victims of sexual abuse. The book had many prayers in it and the Holy Father promised he would pray especially for those whom we recorded in that book. After that, each person went forward and spoke for a moment in person with the Holy Father who in turn gave each a rosary and a blessing.

The meeting was a very moving experience for all who participated. The Holy Father knew that I wanted him to meet with survivors but I never expected it was going to happen on this trip. This was his invitation and I was delighted that it happened.

– – –

Next, we left for the magnificent talk Pope Benedict gave to the college presidents and superintendents of Catholic primary and secondary schools in the United States.



He gave a forceful talk in which he underscored the importance of education. He also praised us for the sacrifices we have made in the United States for our Catholic schools and colleges.


The Holy Father urged us to make sure that the teaching of the faith is uppermost in our educational efforts. He said that learning the faith only enhances people’s understanding of reality and that there is not a contradiction between faith and reason. He spoke about academic freedom and how freedom must be based upon truth. Then, he urged religious orders in the ministry of education not to abandon the schools and urged us all to be supportive of the Catholic schools and to strengthen their Catholic identity.

His address was magnificent and very well received by all the educators there. As I looked out at the crowd, I saw Sister Kathleen FitzSimons, our interim superintendent of Catholic schools and our new superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neil in the front row. I also saw Sister Janet Eisner, President of Emmanuel College and Dr. Joseph McNabb, president of Laboure College.


Mary Grassa O’Neil and Sister Janet Eisner.
Sister Eisner sent me this photo taken with her camera at the event.


Vincentian Father David M. O’Connell, president of
The Catholic University of America, greets the pope

– – –

While in Washington, I stayed with my Capuchin brothers at the Capuchin College friary as I often do.






This was my cell during the four years I spent at the friary years ago

– – –

On Tuesday, I met my old friend Msgr. Peter Vaghi, who is pastor of Little Flower parish in Bethesda.


With him in the photo is Fall River Father Jeff Cabral (right), a Portuguese priest studying Canon Law and living in the parish with Msgr. Vaghi

– – –

For the photo of the week, I have chosen this one showing a commemorative coin that the Holy Father gave to each of the bishops present at his birthday lunch at the nunciature.


Next week, I am hoping to blog on the rest of the Holy Father’s trip, particularly about the Mass at the Yankee stadium on Sunday. There, we will commemorate together with the Holy Father the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of Boston, together with the Archdioceses of New York and Philadelphia and the diocese of Louisville.

This Saturday, I will go back to Boston for a few hours to participate at the Men’s Conference that will take place at Boston College. If you are in the area, I encourage you to attend.

Until my next posting.

In Christ.

Cardinal Seán

44 thoughts on “With the Holy Father in Washington D.C.”

  1. Waht a blessing to visit your site. the photos on the blog were so moving. I am a 76 year old poor woman mostly shut in and i thrive by visiting holy web istes and EWTN.

    I sent you a package at the USCCB. I hope you enjy the little gift and respond favorably to my ideas to help vocations and the priests.

    I beg God to bless you for all you do. the pope told us to love a preist. I love many and you as well.


  2. i was in Fla the week prior to the Pope’s visit to Boston and with all the walking at Yankee Stadium, didnt risk it on all those narrow stairs. My group, the Neo Cats was on the third tier and had a great view, they stated.
    I was back at home and glued to the tube.
    When Pope Benedicts got off the plane in Washington, his cap blew off – and they way he grabbed it was just adorable.’
    He was truly a quiet, humble, holy man and left his mark in Boston for sure.kudos to u and your committee cardinal sean. you all did a super job.
    Pope will never forget boston and boston will never forget him. Everyone came home so happy….
    Like Jesus walked the earth and in Yankee Stadium.

  3. Thank you, Your Eminence. You and the Holy Father have confirmed Christ’s promise to not leave us orphans. You have given us an example of how we must represent him to one another – loving, forgiving, caring. Thank you.

  4. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Thank you for the pictures of the Pope’s vist to US. I wouldn’t have had the chance to see them if you didn’t have your blog site. Thank you for taking the time and effort to do that. Many blessings to you. Pace e Bene,
    Geraldine, fmdm

  5. Your Emminence,
    I am from Malaysia and could follow the Holy Father’s USA trip through CNN and BBC. But someone shared me your blog and I found your stories and photos describing the visit more vividly. Thank you for taking the time to share. Indeed modern media technology, if used properly, could bring out the best in the life of the Church and the world.
    I am touched by the simplicity of your cell at St.Francis Friary. It is a testimony of the values preached by Christ in the Beatitudes. Terima kasih (thank you in Malay)!

  6. Many blessed experiences this recent week. Cardinal Sean, we gave you a Standing O at the Men’s Conference at Boston College. You can not imagine the pride we have in a man who so exemplfies being Catholic. May God continue to bless you, and through you, us as well.

  7. What a fantastic post! I am amazed by the photos and all that happened in such a short amount of time with our Holy Father! I was blessed to be with him in New York at Yankee Stadium and at St. Patrick’s! His visit will bear fruit for our nation for years to come! Keep up the fantastic work on the blog! It is wonderful! God bless! Padre Steve, SDB

  8. Dear Cardinal Sean:

    Thank you for your detailed account of the Holy Father’s vsit to Washington D.C. I was able to follow some of the events of his visit on EWTN as well as Zenit news service. I am happy that I had a chance to see his visit now from your prespective. I was also very moved to read about the Holy Father’s visit with the victims of clergy sexual abuse. I am sure that it was an awkward moment for all, especially the Holy Father but I think that this is an imortant step in the healing of our Church. I have new hope now in our Church and my faith. God bless.

    In Christ,
    Felipe C. Barreda-Diago
    Coral Gables, Florida

  9. Dear Cardinal Sean, I’m coming a little late to this, but I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every photograph. I hope that the Pope’s visit will leave a lasting impression on all of America and invigorate the faith of the youth who turned out in such large numbers. I, too, am pleased that the Pope met with victims of abuse and hope his personal approach will go some way towards healing and renewal for all those whose faith and trust has been so badly shaken.

  10. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    It brought great peace and joy to my heart to hear that the Holy Father met with abuse victims during his trip to the US. Thank you so much for making this happen. I’m sure that it was an experience which touched not only your heart but the Holy Father’s as well. I continue to pray for the Church and all the victims of abuse.

  11. Perhaps the most inspiring of all is the picture of your Cell. One can only imagine the hours of conversation with God that has taken place inside those four walls!

    As St. Francis said, “We take our Cells with us.” And of course some of us have been told we belong in a cell…but I choose to forgive them anyway.

    The peace of Christ!

  12. Your Eminence,
    You may not remember me, my name is Travis White from Boca Raton Fl. You confirmed me while you were There as Bishop at Our Lady of Loureds and then we were able to talk at St. John the Evangilist about my vocation into priestly formation with the Capuchins.

    It is so amazing how you were able to bring healing to the Boca Raton area as well as what you are doing in Boston, and PRAISE BE TO GOD! for being able to meet and pray with His Holiness, Pope Benedict 16th.

    I only ask of you one thing, and that is to keep me in your prayers as I dicern and pray about my vocation and await my entry into the order of the Capuchin Franciscans.


    Your friend and brother in our Lord Jesus Christ,

    Travis White

  13. It’s been a long time since I last visited Cardinal Seán’s Blog. I know in this week’s post he will share with us his activities as usual. I must say, in advance, I was inspired to come back to the Blog and enjoy reading all the posts I missed, when, while watching the Papal Mass at the Yankee Stadium on TV, I saw Cardinal Seán among the the bishops.
    God bless you, Cardinal O’Malley, and may His Spirit be upon you always.
    La Paz,

  14. The photos are just beautiful! The Holy Father left us with such Hope. It was wonderful to see so many people welcome him in such a warm way.

  15. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures of Our Holy Father.
    I listened to all his homilies this past week. What a true Shepherd he is to all of us. Very sensitive to all people. I was so glad that he met with the victims of abuse. I pray that they continue through their healing process. With the help of dedicated shepherds and our Holy Father and a caring, sensitive Cardinal as you, I know that their hurt will be healed. We must continue praying for that. We must also continue praying for the clergy who have abused the victims. They also need our prayers and support. With God’s guidance all the hurt will be healed.
    You are in my daily prayers and you continue to minister to the wonderful people of the Archdiocese of Boston, and to all your priests, deacons, and religious.
    You are a true Franciscan.
    God’s blessings to you always

    Pax et Bonum,
    Bro. Edward-John Bick, pbsf

    Blessed Marianne Cope Regional Community
    Penitent Brothers of St. Francis

  16. Cardinal Sean,

    I was so please to see you last night at the Ma. State K of C
    It meant a lot to all of us that even those you were tired from
    the visit from the Holy Father you were able to join us.

    Please forgive me for thanking you again for setting up
    the meeting of our hurting Brothers and Sisters, This
    step has already done so much in starting the healing
    process for them and all Catholics.

    Bruce Caissie,Grand Knight
    Mumford Council 365
    Whitinsville Ma.

  17. Cardinal O’Malley,
    I wish to thank you for giving these reflections on our Holy Father’s visit to the United States. I was blessed to attend the Seminarian/Youth event in Yonkers and seeing the Vicar of Christ truly enriched my soul! May God bless you as you continue to guide the flock in Boston!
    Oremus pro Invicem,

    Derrick A. Flannigan
    Seminarian, Archdiocese of St. Louis
    Kenrick-Glennon Seminary
    St. Louis, Missouri

  18. Dear Cardinal Sean:
    thank you very much for such a beautiful sharing of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. it is very much appreciated. i did not have a chance to see the Pope. the Capuchin Friars of the Province of St. Mary have been a great spiritual influence in my life and most recently (since summer of 2007) the Friars of the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart have been the most spiritually inspiringl! i’ve become active in that parish as an altar server & lector and am part of some of the groups in the parish: nocturnal adoration, scripture study, secular order of st. francis, bereavement ministry, etc… the parishioners that i know and the Capuchin Friars are all such warm and welcoming people. there’s a very special holiness about Sacred Heart and the Capuchins have a very special charism. PEACE!

  19. Your Eminence,

    We lay people are very lucky to have Pope Benedict as our leader. The Hierarchy in the US have restored our confidence in the church.

    Our local bishop, Most Reverend George Murray SJ, is a breath of fresh air. I don’t think the church has ever been in better hands.

  20. Bula from Fiji—

    We followed with interest the Holy Father’s visit to the United States and we joined the nation in earnest prayer for the success of his mission. As Catholics in this part of the world, we were quietly proud and emotional about his message of Hope during this period of the Resurrection and we were especially bonded in prayer with the many who turned out in great numbers to welcome him to your country.

    We now look forward to see the Holy Father at the WYD 2008 in Sydney – I am sure it will be the greatest gathering of young adults and pilgrims journeying together attesting our most valuable gift which is our Faith.

    Your eminence, thank you for taking the time out to write as we follow with great interest your weekly writes-up.

    May God bless you and the community of Boston and the United States.

    Isake Komailevuka

  21. Thank you so much for a thoughtful, informative posting on our pope’s visit, making it so much closer to us, and for all your efforts to heal our Church, especially in Boston, where I used to live.

    Your dedication and hard work in addressing abuses, their prevention, the pastoral healing of victims and – so recently – in helping to arrange the touching meeting of Benedict with victims is received with greatest gratitude, and thanksgiving for healing the spiritual damage done to all.

    May Our Beloved Lord continue to bless your ministry, your blog and your diocese richly, especially with new vocations, conversions and the renewed indwelling among all your flock and clergy of the Holy Spirit in this Season of Easter leading to Pentacost.

  22. We are deeply concerned about the Red Sox ability to win the pennant with the Pope not only holding mass in Yankee Stadium but also having actually gone into the Yankee Dugout.

    Can you advise.

    Thank you.

  23. Cardinal Sean,
    Thank you for putting your memories
    of the Pope’s visit on your blog. They will be wonderful
    memories for my family as well. In this way you are
    memorializing Pope Benedict’s visit to the U.S. in a very
    special way. Thank you once again for your thoughtfulness.

  24. Thank You, Cardinal, for the excellent blog, as usual. Thank you especially for coordinating the meeting between the Holy Father and the survivors of abuse. I know this will go far beyond that room, in reconciliation and forgiveness. May God continue to bless all you do.


  26. Thank you so much, Cardinal O’Malley!!

    Your blog has always been a blessing, but today especially so. For so many of us, who will probably never meet the Holy Father (at least, this side of Heaven), your words and the wonderful photographs you’ve shared with us make us feel as if we are there with you. Thank you for this precious gift.

    May God continue to bless you and your ministry!

  27. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures of the Papal visit. He is an extraordinary man and we are blessed to have him shepard us.

    Love & Prayers,
    Mary O.

  28. Dear Cardinal Sean, What a beautiful description of your being with Pope Benedict XVI. I’ve been watching TV about his visit and also following what is on Spirit Daily. However, the pictures you have on your blog with the descriptions of each of them were far more beautiful that what I’ve been watching on TV. I wish I could have been there in person to see the Pope, but unfortunately was not able to go from CA. I will keep Pope Benedict, you and all your brother priests in my daily prayers. God bless all of you for what you do in Jesus’ name. Rose

  29. I had to chuckle when we were reminded that the Pope was not a celebrity, nor a rock star, as he does have some things in common with Elton John, and he did arrive here in style, and with a red carpet!

    So far, I wish the sexual abuse crisis did not revisit, as it has been a painful trigger for me. I think that it was gracious of the Pope to acknowledge such atrocity, but there are no words to undo what happened to these people as the Pope so eloquently said. Only God can heal such horrific spiritual wounds.

    I am also not sure how I feel about the five hand-selected people that got to speak to the Pope about their experience, what about the other 1000s? I can only imagine that they felt completely left out, and I wonder if this meeting only served to make the church look good.

    I am sorry that I sound so bitter; I know that I am, and I pray for God’s help with this. Life is hard as it is. There are so many distractions and temptations, coupled with our own human weakness. Sometimes you do wonder where God is in the midst of the many tragedies in our world.

    I also sympathize with priests. It is unfortunate that they have to walk on eggshells as I can only imagine so many do. I feel deeply for the ones who are troubled and left unaided until all hell breaks loose. Where was the kind intervention, the gentle hand, understanding and compassion? From my view, there was none.

    If I can sum it up, the simple message that I received from the Pope is that the respect of human dignity is what will bring true peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding, and healing which the world so desperately needs. Maybe we need to first practice this within our church?

  30. Cardinal Sean –

    Heartfelt thanks for your efforts to bring Pope Benedict together with the clergy abuse survivors. YOU HAVE TRULY DONE GOD’S WORK HERE. Lord willing, these and other survivors may finally gather the strength to move on with their lives. One day, perhaps they may even find it in their hearts forgive the Church that so brutally betrayed them in body and spirit.

    We will be increasing our donation the the Appeal this year as a show of support for all you’ve done. It’s a good beginning – but just that – a beginning. We agree with the victims that clergy who were complicit with this scourge on ANY level should be asked to resign. I pray that God gives you the strength and courage to move this agenda forward.

    God bless you, Cardinal Sean –
    Michelle Gauthier

  31. Thank you, Eminence. I am very pleased that the Holy Father made the time to meet with clergy sexual abuse victims and speak to them. Thank you for being involved in this meeting–God willing, it will help in the healing of all the church.

    It has been an amazing visit by the Holy Father. God forgive me, but I was worried that the people of the United States would not embrace him and his ministry. I actually was concerned that this bookish, rather shy man would be held up to ridicule. Guess I need to work on that sin of Pride, huh?

    God bless you, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and God bless and keep the Holy Father (Please, God, keep him here with us for many years). We have all been blessed in this visit. I suspect it will continue to resonate in our beloved country for years to come.

  32. Thank you so very much, Cardinal Sean, for being the catalyst that brought five of the survivors together to meet with the pope. This meeting, along with the pope’s heartfelt words about the abuse crisis, has brought a new level of understanding to all of us. May the pope’s call for unity be heeded particularly with regards to those who have suffered so much. God bless you.

    Rosemary Shaw

  33. Wow! Such great photos from all over.
    I was at the Mass at Nationals Stadium and it was so amazing. The fact that during the homily everyone was silent just astounded me. I was so blessed to have received a ticket from my university and had the great seats that we had. I saw you on the Jumbotron a few times and with the seats I had I could see you all walking. It was so great to see someone from my home celebrating with the Holy Father!
    Thank-you for everything Cardinal Sean!

  34. Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you for providing such wonderful pictures of his visit to the US. As one who grew up Catholic but has drifted away many years ago, I was very touched by listening to him over the last few days. May I humbly ask that you pray for me as I try to find my back to the Lords Church?

  35. Cardinal Sean–We send our sincere thanks and congratulations for all you have worked toward this week.

    Your leadership, along with others, was a key to what Pope Benediict acted upon relative to the sexual abuse issue, which was so dominant during his visit.

    His grave concerns have been noted by many people we have spoken with. A number of them have been from various backgrounds. They respectfully like what they see and hear.

    Thus the Church of Boston and throughout your Province will benefit from what you have accomplished.

    Your friends in Christ–Sheila & Joe

  36. Dear Cardinal O’Malley,
    What a wonderful blog entry. Thank you for sharing your experiences during the Holy Father’s visit. And thank you especially for your part in the Holy Father’s healing meeting with Boston abuse victims. This singular event has had a huge impact on all Catholics across the nation and made the Holy Father’s visit even more joyful. May God Bless you and God Bless His Holy Church.

  37. Cardinal Sean,

    It was an EXCITING couple days in DC! It was a blessing to be at the mass with the Holy Father. I saw you from a distance and I was excited to read your reflections on these last few days. I look forward to next week’s entry as well!

    pax et bonum,
    friar Matt

  38. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you for taking the time to give us such a detailed and moving picture of your first days with the Holy Father. I have been touched and experienced healing toward the Church by the actions, words and evident compassion of Pope Benedict. I was not expecting this…..in fact, just the opposite was true.

    But I was wrong and I am so filled with joy and renewed hope for the church. If you read this before meeting with the Holy Father again, please tell him that American Catholics, especially those of us who have been deeply distressed by so many things in the church, are once again hopeful and grateful to him for his kindness, sensitivity and compassion.

    I have much more that I would like to say, but it is too long for this forum. I hope someday to see you at a Mass and hear you speak. I believe we met many years ago at the Capuchin monestary in Milton, MA in the ealy 70’s for a brief time. I have never forgotten that meeting and when you were chosen as Bishop of the Boston Archdiiocese, I was very, very happy.

    I have gone on much too long, but I hope to write to you again when you return from these extraordinary days. I will keep you and Pope Benedict in my heart and in my prayers. These past few days have given me a renewed faith that the Spirit is alive in our Church.

    Kingston, NH

  39. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    You hit a home run with all bases full in Washington, D.C. and you are about to win the game at Yankee’s stadium
    in New York City by celebrating with clergy and faithful the bi-centennial of the Archdiocese of Boston.

    What you have accomplished by making it possible for victims of sexual abuse and mental anguish to meet the Holy Father is nothing short of miraculous.

    There is a lot still to be done so that faith and hope is reborn in the hearts who suffered so much. As baseball fans say at the beginning of a game …

    Play ball !

    Al Martinez
    Bedford, Texas

  40. Thank you for all you have done for our Church. You are a role model for our young people. You are in our prayers.

  41. Dear Cardinal Sean, What a wonderful week! Thank you for all your efforts/hard work in helping the clergy abuse survivors. The meeting with the Holy Father and the victims must have been a remarkable event! All the best! God Bless, Annette

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April 2008