I just got off the phone with Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, who was in Washington, D.C., for the White House ceremony with the pope this morning. He told me that everything combined today to make for a perfect moment: the mood of the people, the event itself, the beauty of the White House, being in the presence of the pope, the fact that it was the pope's birthday, and the unbelievable weather.
"It was very moving and very happy, if that's the right word. There was a very happy mood. There was no crying kind of emotion, at least not that I witnessed," Barnes said.
Although he said the event was incredibly well organized given the size and security --more than 13,000 people, the largest event of its kind ever held at the White House -- he did observe at least one "befuddling" situation.
At least 100 bishops, he said, were forced to stand for more than an hour before the event and then all through the event in a belted-off area next to some seated dignitaries. Some of the bishops were elderly and some couldn't see what was happening.
"I felt quite badly for some of them that I know. People like me who were in the bleachers would have offered them a seat, but we were 100 yards away and cordoned off," said Barnes, who was preparing to fly home to New York, where he will attend the pope's Yankee Stadium Mass on Sunday.
-- Mary DeTurris Poust