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Issue Date:  March 7, 2008

Chosen few get stadium tickets for papal Masses

Christine Larrabee is grateful there were witnesses. Otherwise the news would have been a tough sell at her Catholic church in Cranford, N.J.

The drama at St. Michael revolved around who would get tickets to see Pope Benedict XVI celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium April 20.

Eighty people at St. Michael vied for the five tickets given to each parish in the Newark archdiocese. Larrabee and her husband, Bardsson, each had their names picked, defying long odds that a wife and husband could win.

“I’m glad they did it in a public forum,” said Christine Larrabee, “or no one would have believed it.”

Of the 60,000 tickets available for the papal Mass, only about 3,500 went to New Jersey. The Boston and Philadelphia archdioceses received double that number because they are celebrating bicentennials, according to media reports.

The New York archdiocese is in charge of distributing the tickets for the Yankee Stadium Mass, giving somewhere between a third and half of the total tickets to the 400 churches within its boundaries, said Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman.

“Our general rule of thumb was, the bicentennial dioceses and then the contiguous dioceses [to New York] -- Newark, Brooklyn and Bridgeport -- would get a little bit larger allotment than would the other dioceses in New York state,” he said.

The ticket distribution has left many Catholics in neighboring New Jersey unsatisfied.

“People of course have wanted to know, ‘Are there any extras?’ and ‘What do we have to pay?’ ” said James Goodness, a spokesman for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers. “We’ve said there’s no payment for the tickets. ... And they’re limited.”

Pastors were able to use their own discretion when handing out tickets. Some pastors held raffles, others awarded the papal Mass tickets to church volunteers or staff.

The Washington archdiocese announced that close to 14,000 people out of the 45,000 expected to be in attendance at Benedict’s April 17 Mass in Washington will hail from outside the archdiocese. Of these, 6,000 tickets will be distributed in the neighboring Arlington, Va., diocese and 2,500 in the neighboring Baltimore archdiocese.

At press time, the remaining 120 other U.S. dioceses that had requested tickets were being notified of their allotments.

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, March 7, 2008

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