Pope Francis arrives to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for a meeting with U.S. bishops Sept. 23 in Washington. CNS photo/Jonathan Newton, pool
Pope Francis arrives to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for a meeting with U.S. bishops Sept. 23 in Washington. CNS photo/Jonathan Newton, pool

By David Karas | Correspondent

On behalf of the clergy, religious and lay faithful throughout the four counties of the Diocese of Trenton, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., offered his own words of welcome for Pope Francis on the occasion of his apostolic visit to the United States.

“This is an especially happy occasion since it is the Holy Father’s first trip ever to our country,” he said. “We hope that these few days will provide Pope Francis with the opportunity to get to know us as we embrace him with much affection and enthusiasm and as we open our minds and hearts to his messages in New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.”

While Bishop O’Connell’s mobility limitations preclude his participation in some of the larger, more crowded venues and Masses, he joined his fellow United States bishops on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C., as Pope Francis joined them for mid-day prayer.

As during previous papal visits, the Bishop was a sought-after guest to provide commentary for television news programming throughout the Holy Father’s visit.

Bishop O’Connell was included in a CNN panel Sept. 23, and will offer live, in-studio commentary for CBS Philadelphia during the weekend of Pope Francis’s visit to the City of Brotherly Love.

Diocesan participation in the Pontiff’s visit will extend to many others as well. A cohort of cantors from St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, will be among the talented voices of the Papal Choir, and many from the diocese – both clergy and laity – will be volunteers assisting as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and in support and hospitality capacities throughout the programming (see page 10).

“Our seminarians in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia will have the opportunity of a lifetime to be with the Pope during his stay there,” added Bishop O’Connell. “Our other seminarians, clergy, religious and lay faithful will join those participating at Masses and other events in New York, Washington and during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.”

Following the announcement of the Pope’s visit to the United States, faithful throughout the Diocese of Trenton have spent the past several months planning for prayerful celebrations and other festivities to mark the historic occasion.

Many parishioners took part in Holy Hour gatherings in honor of the World Meeting of Families and the Papal visit, and parishes throughout Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties have announced screenings and other gatherings to view the Mass with fellow parishioners.

Some parishes have also organized buses to Philadelphia for Mass with Pope Francis on Sunday.

The diocesan website, www.DioceseOfTrenton.org, has also been transformed with a new splash page that greets visitors with links to the welcoming words of Bishop O’Connell and details about the Pope’s itinerary, as well as ongoing coverage in The Monitor and a live stream of programming.

“It is hard to contain the excitement that everyone feels, Catholic and non-Catholic alike,” said Bishop O’Connell. “We offer Pope Francis our prayers, love and support as he spends this extraordinary time with us!”

Reflecting on the historic visit, Bishop O’Connell shared his own excitement.

“It promises to be an awesome experience!” he said.

To read Bishop O’Connell’s full message, go to www.TrentonMonitor.com.