April 5, 2005
Every Sunday, Father Thomas Shreve, Vicar General of the Richmond Diocese, says mass at the Church of Epiphany.
But not this Sunday. This Sunday he'll be in Rome.
"A priest friend of mine, who has some involvement in some of the ceremonies at the Vatican, had called the other day to say that he had a ticket, if you will, to be a communion minister. He asked if I'd like to go. So I said yes," explained Father Shreve.
With two million people expected to arrive in Rome for the funeral, the Vatican needed help in giving communion.
Some say there couldn't be a better representative of the Richmond diocese than Father Shreve at this historic event.
"He's an incredibly fine person, a wonderful example of priesthood and we are so proud of him here," said one of his secretaries Susan Crudup.
The funeral will begin with a traditional mass. Afterwards the casket will be carried to the Vatican grottos where most of the popes have been buried.
Whether or not the Pontiff will be taken outside so the public can see him before he's buried has yet to be decided.
People are not allowed inside St. Peters, where the mass will be, without a ticket.
"There's some discussion of, perhaps, whether the casket will be brought through the square or not, since that was such a big part of his ministry, his contact with people," said Shreve.
And this is what Father Shreve admires most about the Pontiff--his inclusion of all people as children of God.
"[He was] very open to making the whole world realize that we all belong to the family of God. All of us. That it doesn't really matter, in those terms, what our race might be, or our nationality, or our religious affiliation. That we all belong to the family and household of God," said Father Shreve.
Father Shreve will spend a couple weeks in Italy. He is no stranger to the country, but actually went to university there.