Even over the phone, I could tell Monsignor Earl Provenza was glowing this morning when he called to tell me about his couple of days in DC with the pope.
"I sense a fresh air," he said. "The window was opened to hope."
As the diocesan administrator he was able to attend the meeting with the bishops on Wednesday which has received significant attention because of the pope's mention of the sexual abuse scandal. Provenza said he was frank but fatherly in talking about the crisis, which has understandably shaken the faith of many.
"He said his heart was so heavy but he said we need to extend help to victims, move forward and I see goodness in the horizon," Provenza said. "A a priest I was very pleased that he said this. He surely wasn't hiding anything."
The atmosphere for the welcome ceremony and Mass was electric, he said, as more than 45,000 people gathered for worship. They clapped, responded and cheered. Provenza also appreciated Pope Benedict's attention to the shortage of priests.
"Any young man to hear him they will be encouraged to think about priesthood," he said.
I also heard from Casey Simpson, a member of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, who attended Thursday's Mass with his 11-year-old daughter. Part of his story made it in today's paper, but here's more.... Simpson was particularly impressed by the emphasis placed on unity of people regardless of race and culture. The Mass included people of all hues, and the pontiff spoke in Spanish toward the end of his sermon. Simpson thought it was a direct comment on the controversy over immigration laws.
The experience also renewed his zeal for his faith.
"The man is inspired by God," he said. "I need to pay more attention."
The day was not all cheering the pope. He saw some protesters, but was particularly struck by a priest who stopped to talk to them.
"He’s trying to show the protester the love of the risen Christ," Simpson said. "He was doing what I’m supposed to be doing too by loving those who would oppose me as a Christian."