For the 460 people chosen by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany to travel to Yankee Stadium April 20 to see Pope Benedict XVI, the realization that security will be tight has come swiftly.
Those winning a lottery drawing in which 3,000 names were entered have been told they can’t even bring an umbrella to the papal Mass.
Each person has had a background security check done on them and will have to bring a picture identification card.
Cameras and cellphones, however, will be allowed, according to diocese officials.
“We put our names in,” said Laura Bresnahan of Rotterdam. But, she and her husband, David Bresnahan, a school music teacher like his wife, weren’t picked in the first lottery drawing.
The second drawing, which was conducted by the Evangelist, the Catholic newspaper of the diocese, was the charm though.
“All of a sudden we got the letter back in the mail,” Bresnahan said on Tuesday.
She said her mother traveled to New York some years ago to see Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, celebrate Mass.
“She still can’t stop talking about it,” Bresnahan said. “It was an amazing experience [for her mother].”
“I always wanted to do it, but I never thought I would have a chance,” Bresnahan said. “It’s going to be an honor.”
Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected in 2005 after John Paul II’s death, will be visiting the United States for the first time as pope from April 15-20.
The pope will be joined by hundreds of priests at Yankee Stadium to concelebrate Mass for the more than 50,000 attending, said the Rev. Kenneth Doyle, a chancellor of the Albany Diocese.
Doyle, who is also pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Albany, is helping to coordinate national media coverage for the pope’s visit.
Doyle said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have changed the whole atmosphere of a papal visit to the United States.
He said that when Pope John Paul II visited the United States, he celebrated a Mass in the National Mall in Washington.
“Several hundred thousand people attended,” Doyle said. “You could never do that again due to the need for security.”
Doyle said a background screening was done on each person selected to attend the Mass at Yankee Stadium.
He said the tickets to the stadium event are “nontransferable” because each person is screened and must have proper ID. The tickets are free to the lottery winners, but they must pay $50 each for tickets for the buses, which will load at 5 a.m. at several locations in the Capital Region before heading for the Bronx.
Tina McPartlon of St. Helen’s Parish in Niskayuna, who will be attending the Mass with her 20-year-old son, Patrick, said they had to send their names and addresses as they appear on their passports or driver’s license.
She said the security measures aren’t a major problem with her, and said she looked forward to seeing the “spiritual leader of our church” in person.
“I’m so excited about it,” McPartlon said.
John and Rosemary Finn of Clifton Park said they feel blessed to have won the lottery for tickets to the pope’s visit.
“I never won anything in my life,” Finn joked. “It’s a good first.”
Finn is retired from a downstate job and is currently regional manager for Financial Freedom Senior Funding.
The Finns are members of Corpus Christi Parish in Clifton Park.
“I’m excited to go,” said Finn, who grew up in the Bronx, just a mile or so from Yankee Stadium.
“It will be a moving event,” Finn said, calling it an example of the Catholic community coming together to pray with their spiritual leader.
Doyle, who will travel to Washington next week to work with national media members covering the pope’s visit, said security is being coordinated by members of the Vatican security, the U.S. Secret Service and local police agencies in Washington and New York City.
He said the routes that the pope’s car, dubbed the “popemobile,” will be traveling in Washington on April 17-18 and April 19-20 in New York City will be publicized so that people can line the streets and see the pope pass by.
“The Vatican has no reason to keep crowds away from the pope,” Doyle said.
Besides the Mass at Yankee Stadium, the pope will meet with young people and seminarians during a youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers on April 19.