By Tanya Connor
“It’s been wonderful, absolutely wonderful!”
That’s how Bishop McManus started his account of being with Pope Francis in Washington, D.C., as he spoke with The Catholic Free Press by telephone last week.
“The excitement in the city of Washington was palpable,” he said.
It started before he got there, as strangers in T.F. Green Airport in Providence asked if he was going to see the pope and requested his prayers, he said. And the stewardess commented, “Oh what a privilege!”
At St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington, Pope Francis gave a beautiful address to the United States bishops, Bishop McManus said. He said as a bishop he found the Holy Father’s words powerful; he assured the bishops he’s walking with them and recommended that they be courageous and welcome immigrants.
“His pastoral zeal really is an example to us bishops and priests,” Bishop McManus said. “It was like a 12-hour retreat, just listening to his message, his emphasis on joy and hope. We get bogged down in the complexities of running a diocese, a parish.”
The pope was a good example for a bishop “to stand with his priests and support them, especially when they need it most,” he said.
At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where the bishops vested for the canonization of Junipero Serra, there were “university kids all over,” Bishop McManus said. “When the bishops appeared, they all started clapping … thanking us for being bishops and leaders in the Church.”
The bishops watched on large screens as the pope went through the basilica, where seminarians were gathered.
“Pandemonium,” Bishop McManus said. “He had a big smile on his face.”
He called the canonization liturgy beautiful and said, “It was a great example for our young people to see how liturgy is supposed to be celebrated – prayerfully.”
Bishop McManus said when WBZ-TV interviewed him in Washington, “I said, ‘What gives me great joy – it’s very clear that people are proud to be Catholic.’” The bishop said he is to be on The Jordan Levy show at 4 or 5 p.m. tonight.
Wednesday was a tiring day, beginning at 8:30 a.m., with a return to the hotel at 8 p.m., “so you can imagine how tiring it was for the Holy Father,” Bishop McManus said.
Bishop McManus was to take a train with other bishops to Philadelphia, where he would celebrate Mass and dine with the group from the Worcester Diocese that Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family, helped to coordinate. After that he was to return to Washington, D.C., then Worcester.
Bishop McManus said this is the third U.S. papal visit he has been part of. In 1979 he saw Pope John Paul II in Boston. In 2008 he saw Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, D.C., and New York
How did this visit compare with them?
“Very similar in the excitement of the people,” he replied. But now that photographs can be taken on mobile phones, when he was stopped in traffic he saw people getting out of their cars to do just that.
“So these papal trips are much more recorded,” he said.
Three different popes, three different styles, three different emphases, Bishop McManus said. But with all three, it’s all about Jesus and spreading the good news.