Pope Francis Beams Into the Sun Bowl
By Anna Casey
Photos by Daulton Venglar/Reporting Texas
EL PASO – As Pope Francis delivered his Mass in Juarez Wednesday evening, more than 30,000 people gathered to watch a live feed at the Sun Bowl stadium just across the border in El Paso. The crowd cheered and waved white handkerchiefs as the pope made special mention of those at the stadium.
“I wish to take this opportunity to salute from here our dear brothers and sisters who are with simultaneously across the border,” Francis said, “especially those who have gathered at the stadium of the University of [Texas at] El Paso, known as the Sun Bowl.”
Lulia Hernandez, 57, was at the Sun Bowl watching the pope’s message on the jumbo screen, set against a cloudless sky in 80-degree weather. The El Paso resident wore a long-sleeve, yellow shirt with a picture of Pope Francis across her chest. Hernandez said she had wanted to make the short trip across the border to Juarez to see the pope in person, but the Sun Bowl was the next best thing.
“He has a hope in him that brings peace to all,” she said in Spanish.
The Sun Bowl event, called “Two Nations One Faith,” was organized by The Catholic Extension, which provides funding to poor dioceses. The gathering highlighted the proximity of El Paso to Juarez. In his homily, the pope addressed issues of immigration, calling the situation at the border–and across the globe–a “crisis.”
“We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis, which in recent years has meant the migration of thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometers through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones,” Francis said.
Many visitors to this border city focused on immigration, with marches and rallies in the days leading up to the pope’s visit.
One priest at the Sun Bowl said he wanted to show “solidarity with the people in Juarez.” Ken Ducre, a priest at Christ the Savior church in El Paso, said his church is diverse, with immigrants from all over the world.
“The pope has called on us to be more accepting as brothers and sisters,” Ducre said, especially when it comes to the poor and marginalized.
Leading up to the pope’s mass, the event at the Sun Bowl featured musical performances by nearly 1,000 participants, including indigenous groups, country singer Collin Raye, rapping priest Tony Ricard of New Orleans, and others. There were also performers at the entrance to the stadium, including tango dancers, a nod to the pope’s native Argentina.
People who attended received a thin small pamphlet for the pope’s Mass – in Spanish.
“The same as what they have in Juarez,” said the woman passing out the booklets.