Pope's Mass: Being there worth the trouble

The Baltimore Sun

On April 17, my alarm clock awakened me at 2 a.m. so I could drive to a Washington hotel, where I would catch an early media bus to the new Nationals Park and prepare for coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's Mass later that morning. Groggy, I pulled myself out of bed, downed two cups of coffee already brewed from the automatic coffee maker and headed to D.C., stopping only to pick up fellow photographer Amy Davis.

At the Westin Hotel, we boarded buses along with other members of the news media and were taken to the stadium, where we were greeted by an army of Secret Service agents. We were told to power up our laptops and cameras, lay all our gear on the ground and step back as a dog sniffed through the piles of equipment. And we still needed to go through metal detectors and have our equipment X-rayed before we could be escorted to our staging positions by a contingent of press flacks and, yes, more Secret Service personnel.

A couple of hours before the Mass began, some news photographers were finally allowed to roam a little at center field to look for slice-of-life pictures of nuns, kids and priests as they prepared to greet the pope, but we were kept on a very short leash by our escorts.

Soon we were ushered back to a small elevated platform near the rear of the main stage, a spot that offered only a profile view of the pope once services began. But with telephoto lenses, there was still plenty to photograph.

When the view of the pope leading Mass was obscured, I looked for other pictures from the crowd, including a nearby group of cardinals wearing red robes. The photo of a cardinal turning his head to look at a large TV screen with a front view of the services is one of these.

Though I am not Catholic, I have to admit that hearing 46,000 people singing together was an amazing experience and memorable for a photojournalist. Despite the over-the-top security and the restrictions on our movements, the pageantry and scale of the event was incredible. I was glad to be there.


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