September 28, 2015

Dozens of Cornellians, Ithacans Attend Philadelphia Papal Mass

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Pope Francis greets the crowd during a parade on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sunday. (Damon Winter / The New York Times)

Approximately 165 members of the Cornell and local Ithaca Catholic communities traveled to Philadelphia to attend Pope Francis’ World Meeting of Families Papal Mass Sunday, joining hundreds of thousands of Catholics.

Students, faculty and staff members traveled in three buses for five hours to attend the mass in Philadelphia and returned early Monday morning, according to Joseph Mazzawi, Cornell Catholic Community associate director of programs and ministries.

The trip, which was organized by the Cornell Catholic Community and St. Catherine’s of Siena Catholic Church, a local Ithaca parish, is the first time such a large number of Cornell Catholic students have traveled together, according to Mazzawi.

“Not during my time have we done something like this before,” Mazzawi said. “Every year a handful of students go with the local church’s buses down to Washington, D.C. or we’ll send around a dozen students to service trips, but we have never directly sponsored such a large pilgrimage to such a large event.”

Students who journeyed to Philadelphia said attending the Mass was a spiritual experience that helped connect them to the larger Catholic community.

“[When] you go to something like this and realize ‘Wow, the Catholic Church is spread across the globe and we are all connected by the Holy See with the Pope at the forefront of that,’ I think that’s a nice reminder,” Sheena Hilton grad said.

“I think listening and being present for Pope Francis’ homily was a spiritual experience and a powerful moment,” Magdalena Zink ’18 said. “Seeing people of all walks of life kneeling in prayer in the middle of a big city made me realize it’s an exciting time to be a Catholic in America right now.”

Pope Francis’ Sunday Papal Mass at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia caps off his six-day trip in the U.S. in which he addressed Congress, spoke to the U.N., visited the White House and performed Mass numerous times.

To allow Catholics at Cornell to participate in Pope Francis’ events, the Cornell Catholic Community hosted a lecture and live streamed several events in celebration of Pope Francis’ arrival on U.S. soil.

On Thursday morning, students were able to watch Pope Francis’ address to Congress through a live stream in Sage Chapel. The speech, which was the first time a Pope addressed a joint session of Congress, lasted about an hour and covered topics that included climate change, immigration, the death penalty, war and poverty.

The event was co-sponsored by Cornell United Religious Work and the Protestant Cooperative Ministry, according to Mazzawi.

In addition to Thursday morning’s live stream, the Cornell Catholic Community also live streamed an interfaith event from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. called “Coming Together in Faith on Climate: An Evening of Celebration Supporting Pope Francis’s Call for Action on Climate Change” on Thursday evening.

The event brought together many leaders of faith gathered from across the country to stand in solidarity to care for the environment and combat climate change. Leaders at the event, which included Imam Mohammed Magid, president of the Islamic Society for North America, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of national Catholic justice lobby Network and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), pledged to encourage their communities to take action on climate change.

Thursday evening’s event follows the Pope’s May 24 encyclical “Laudato Si,” which encourages all humans to care for creation and to address particularly the issue of climate change.

In efforts to further discussion on the topics of science and faith, the Cornell Catholic Community hosted a forum Friday evening in Anabel Taylor Hall titled “The Catholic Church and Climate Change: Teilhard, Green Popes and Laudato Si.”

The talk is a part of lecture series created by the Cornell Catholic Community, which aims to bring the sciences into dialogue with faith, according to Mazzawi.

At the event, Prof. Jonathan I. Lunine, astronomy, introduced the series by reading part of the Pope’s recent encyclical, discussing the science behind climate change and speaking about how the call for the care of creation and for action against the degradation of the environment is not new in the Catholic Church’s social teachings.