When Pope Benedict XVI came to Catholic University in 2008, the University community had more time to prepare and, as a result, students played a larger role. In August 2007, Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., then President of the University, learned the Pope would deliver an important address on Catholic education in April 2008.
In the months prior to Pope Benedict’s visit, nearly 400 CUA volunteers were recruited to execute the numerous tasks necessary for the Holy Father’s visit. Architecture students were commissioned to design the altar, papal chair, pulpit, and lectern to be used during the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at Nationals Park. A choir of 17 music students were selected from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music to perform the eighth-century chant “Laudes Regiae: Christus Vincit,” as the Pope entered the University center’s Great Room.
On April 16, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Basilica to meet with U.S. bishops and preside over Solemn Vespers in the Crypt Church. While there, he greeted a crowd of thousands students and alumni who had gathered on the University Mall.
The next day, the Pope returned to campus and delivered his address on education at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center before a packed audience of more than 400 Catholic educators. While the Pope spoke, more than 1,000 students gathered on the lawn of CUA’s Columbus School of Law to watch the address live on a JumboTron.
During his address, Pope Benedict XVI greeted his audience as “bearers of wisdom” and spoke of education’s integral place in the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News. Stressing the high expectations society places on Catholic educators, he told the audience that such expectation “places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity.”
The Pope spoke of “the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God,” especially the younger generation. Thus, he told the audience, “A particular responsibility for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith.”