ENCORE — More than 1,100 from Jefferson City diocese celebrate at Mass with Pope in St. Louis


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About 1,100 people from all over the Diocese of Jefferson City joined the congregation of about 100,000 at Pope John Paul II’s Mass (on Jan. 27, 1999) in St. Louis.

About 1,000 parishioners, along with five Chancery staff members, 28 diocesan collaborators, three religious brothers, 18 religious sisters and a group of 38 consisting of deacons and their spouses, planned to make the trip to St. Louis.

Most were situated in the Cervantes Convention
Center adjacent to the Trans World Dome, where the Mass was celebrated. The Pope processed through the center in the glass-walled “popemobile” for about 45 minutes before entering the Dome.

Bishop John R. Gaydos and Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe, retired bishop of Jefferson City, headed up a group of 58 priests from the diocese who were among about 900 priests who celebrated the Mass with the Pope.

Buses from the diocese left Jefferson City at 12:30 and 1:30 a.m. Car-poolers began arriving at their parking places at 2:50 a.m. The doors to the Trans World Dome and the convention center opened at 4 a.m.

Pre-Mass events, including Morning Prayer, video presentations, songs, greeting, and processional music with organ, orchestra, handbells and two choirs began at 4:30 a.m.

Crowds filled the streets and sidewalks outside the entrances to the dome and convention center, while souvenir vendors hawked their wares.

It was 72 degrees outside.

While the choirs sang “Thou Art the Rock” and the orchestra played the Papal Fanfare, John Paul II entered the building as the congregation cheered.

After circulating throughout the convention center, his popemobile carried him around the perimeter of the floor in the dome, where he joined the procession for Mass.

In his homily, the Pope appealed for an end to the death penalty, and called on the Church to help put an end to every form of racism, saying U.S. bishops have identified it as one of the most persistent and destructive evils of the nation.

The Pope’s homily emphasized the need to protect the family and promote the Gospel of Life in a variety of areas.

But people need various forms of Church support to live up to those teachings, he added.

“As believers, how can we fail to see that abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are a terrible rejection of God’s gift of life and love?” he said.

“And as believers, how can we fail to feel the duty to surround the sick and those in distress with the warmth of our affection and the support that will help them always to embrace life?” he said.

The Pope praised U.S. Catholics’ tradition of generous service in charity, healthcare and education as expressions of the Gospel in action. Today, he said, U.S. Catholics should draw inspiration from this heritage of holiness and service for a new phase of evangelization.

The Pope also reached out to fallen-away Catholics, suggesting that the coming Holy Year 2000 was the moment of return to the Church. Sometimes there may be obstacles to participation in the Eucharist, and in some cases memories need to be healed, but “in all cases there is the assurance of God’s love and mercy,” he said.

John Thavis and Carol Zimmerman of Catholic News Service contributed information to this story.