Early on Sunday morning the Holy Father will walk out of the gates of his summer villa to celebrate Mass at the local pontifical parish in Castel Gandolfo. The Pope has celebrated Mass at the parish of St. Thomas of Villanova every Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, since his election to the papacy in 2005.
Fr. Waldemar Niedziolka, the parish priest and resident director of the Salesians of Don Bosco community, told CNA that the church will be full to its 200-person capacity when the Holy Father arrives at 8 a.m. for the Eucharistic Celebration.
Fr. Niedziolka said that the Mass will take place in an intimate atmosphere to which the parish choir will contribute.
Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, a member of the Salesian order, will be there to concelebrate along with local Bishop Marcello Semeraro and the major rector of Don Bosco's order, Fr. Pascual Chavez, in addition to Fr. Niedziolka himself.
As it is a parish Mass, said Fr. Niedziolka, the majority of the attendees will be members of St. Thomas of Villanova, including those chosen to participate in the liturgy. For example, he said, a family, a couple celebrating 25 years of marriage, two newly-confirmed young people and a pair of first communicants will deliver the gifts to the Holy Father at the offertory.
Also attending will be civil, military and religious authorities from the area, including representatives from the Sisters of St. Martha and a Filipino teaching order.
Only a small fraction of the 4,000 members of the parish will be inside the church for the celebration, but a big screen placed in the square will allow those who remain outside to follow the Mass as it takes place. They will also enjoy the possibility of greeting the Pope as he makes his way back to his summer residence to recite the Angelus at noon.
This year's Mass, Fr. Niedziolka concluded, will not be unlike those of past years, but next year, he noted, with the 50th anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's ordination to the priesthood and the completion of restoration efforts in the church, the parish will be putting together "something special."