Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Father John Eckert, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Salisbury had a ticket to watch the Holy Father's address to Congress from the lawn of the US Capitol building.

After the speech the Holy Father appeared on a balcony above the lawn where he appeared as a tiny figure in Fr. Eckert's smart phone photo.

Like the thousands of others who were there Father Eckert had to arrive before 6 am. The Pope greeted them about five hours later.

"It was more than I anticipated, having to be on my feet for hours with nowhere to sit, I am physically tired, but exhilarated," He described the scene as "our own little St. Peter's moment on the lawn of the capital."

Father Eckert was offered a ticket to the event by the office of Congressman Robert Pittenger.

Fath Eckert has also been listening closely to the other talks and speeches delivered by Pope Francis. He was particularly drawn to the address to the Bishops at St. Matthew's Cathedral.

"I felt encouraged as a pastor. I'm excited to go back and continue to live out my call as a pastor," Eckert said.

In that talk to the Bishops the Holy Father repeatedly said he supported the efforts of the bishops and encouraged them to continue.

Bishop Peter Jugis, who was in attendance at St. Mathew, reiterated the feeling expressed by Fr. Eckert, that the Holy Father's message of support was not just directed at the Bishops and that it applied to all of the pastors and priests of the diocese in their ministry.

Father Eckert planned to return to his church in Salisbury on Thursday afternoon. His parish picnic takes place on Sunday and he looked forward to talking about his brief in-person contact with the Holy Father. "I am excited to relay what he said, encouraging us in the faith."

— David Hains, Director of Communications

Pictured at top: Father John Eckert and the Zaldivar family of Salisbury watched the sunrise as they waited for a glimpse of the Holy Father.