This initiative of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, whose president is Archbishop Rino Fisichella, is an opportunity to demonstrate during this Year of Faith the essential link between the New Evangelization and Liturgy. The Mass is celebrated each Sunday at 10:00am at the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia by the Council’s English language official, Fr. Geno Sylva, a priest for the diocese of Paterson, New Jersey. The 12th century Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia – translated as Holy Spirit in Saxony – stands on the site of an even older Church.
The inspiration for making Mass in English available so near to the Vatican, Fr. Sylva told ZENIT, stemmed from "a desire to offer to people who have been touched by the experience of being at the Tomb of Peter and in the presence of the Holy Father the opportunity to worship in their native language. Being welcomed at the door of a church which is not in one's native land but in one's native language helps one to experience the universality of the Church and the reality that as Catholics we are never alone. Of course, what is of greatest importance is what Pope Benedict XVI states in his Apostolic Letter opening the Year of Faith that people have ‘the opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist."
Although open to pilgrims of all ages, Fr. Sylva noted that there is a particularly strong attendance of young people at the Mass, with some of them involved in its organization."Giving young people here in the city the opportunity to evangelize and to serve the Church is important for it reinforces in the minds all the baptized our duty to communicate the faith and to help people come to know Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it instills a sense of hope in all present."
Fr. Sylva went on to explain that it is his hope and the hope of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan who assist each Sunday, "that English speaking pilgrims return home with a better understanding of the Church's essential mission of evangelization and a greater courage to profess the faith."
Also involved in the organization is Sr. Mary Christa, a religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, and coordinator of the United States Bishops' Visitors Office to the Vatican. She told ZENIT that the Mass is particularly beneficial for Americans who are living in Rome, either for work or study. "The Mass provides for them a sort of community."
For English-speaking pilgrims coming to Rome for shorter periods, Sr. Mary Christa explained that "the Mass is a way of taking the whole experience of Rome, and articulating and pushing them forward. There are many graces that people experience when they come to Rome on pilgrimage. It is an opportunity to see the Church in a new way, to see its history, the art, the beauty."
Having Mass helps to put the pilgrimage experience into perspective, having someone "deliver a homily geared toward the New Evangelization, and saying to them: 'Take everything you've seen, all the graces you've experienced, and let it grow in you.'"
It was fitting that having Mass in English was chosen as an initiative for the Year of Faith, she said. "There are so many ideas that you could have for the New Evangelization, but ultimately it's Christ centered, and the Eucharist centered, and that's why this, above all, nourishes and aims at the very heart of why we are all here."