WASHINGTON - Law enforcement officers from throughout the area filled St. Patrick's Church in Downtown Washington for the annual Blue Mass Tuesday.
The mass stems from a tradition dating back to 1934 when police officers would gather each year to pray for fellow officers who died in the line of duty and ask God's blessing for their own safety.
In his homily, Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl saluted the first responders' efforts after two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.
"The remarkable thing about that horrible day was to see those who simply ran to the scene of the tragedy," Wuerl said.
"We have to keep in mind, at that point, no one knew if there might be additional explosives along that route," Wuerl added.
Wuerl included firefighters and paramedics in his praise for those running into harm's way to help save lives.
This year's Blue Mass paid respect to 120 law enforcement officers nationwide, including 16 form the D.C. region, who died in the line of duty last year.
"Not every law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency responder or medical personnel returns home at the end of their watch," Wuerl said.
Although the service is a Roman Catholic mass, Wuerl said that "all from every religious tradition and faith conviction are invited."
The Blue Mass precedes the start of National Police Week this weekend. Law enforcement officers from across the nation will gather in Washington for meetings, seminars, other memorial services, an honor guard competition and a Washington Nationals baseball game.
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