History, News

Pope Francis’ Historic Gotham Visit

Pope Francis lands at JKF

Pope Francis at JKF Airport

After 5 p.m., on September 24, 2015, Pope Francis landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on an American AirlinesBoeing 777-200. He stepped exit the jet smiling and was met by five Catholic school students chosen because of their excellence in school and devotion to faith. The students, from grades 1, 4, 5, 7 and 10, handed Francis a “spiritual bouquet” made of prayers from students of 86 Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens. The Xaverian High School band of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which played Frank Sinatra’s “ New York, New York ”, welcomed him.

Pope Francis took the time to greet his devoted followers. One audience member at the airport bestowed a toy doll version upon the pope of himself that became a trend on social media. The kind gesture had Pope Francis laughing.

Nearly ten minutes later, Pope Francis and his staff boarded two waiting helicopters to fly them to a Wall Street helipad.

Pope Francis Shut Down Fifth Avenue

The scene looked like something out of a movie. A plethora of people from various nationalities lined up and down 5th Avenue in Manhattan to get a view of Pope Francis. When they saw his motorcade strolling down 5th Avenue, they roared as if he was the world’s biggest rock star. Many of them had their smartphones out capturing the moment. Pope Francis hopped inside the Popemobile to continue his destination to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, his first scheduled New York stop. Bells chimed at the cathedral for Pope Francis’s arrival. Officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, greeted him in front of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was a surreal scene!

Pope Francis Blesses St. Patrick Cathedral

Inside the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Pope Francis proceeded to the altar as audience members and cardinals snapped photos and took videos of the historic moment. Pope Francis shook hands with parishioners in the front row. In addition, he blessed Stephanie Gabaud, an African-American teen girl in a wheelchair. They will remember this Vespers service for a long time.

“I would like to express two sentiments for my Muslim brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in Spanish during his homily as he spoke of the stampede that left 700 dead during the annual pilgrimage. “I would have wished my greeting to be warmer, my sentiments of closeness in the face of tragedy they suffered in Mecca. In this moment I give assurance of my prayers, I unite myself with you all,”

Pope Francis spoke of humility and measuring success as “a grateful heart … compelled to serve the lord.”

“Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: Are we capable of counting our blessings, or have I forgotten them,” the Pope asked.

He thanked American nuns for their work and contributions to the church and was met with a standing ovation.

Pope Francis Opens The United Nations

Pope Francis started his first full day in New York City by taking his campaign to combat global warming to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly. He touched on a litany of international issues, including nuclear proliferation, drug trafficking, and slave labor. Nevertheless, he mostly focused on the need to preserve the world’s ecological system, warning that further damage perpetuates “today’s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste.”

“Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Mankind is not authorized to abuse it, nor is he authorized to destroy it.” Pope Francis said in his native Spanish from the lectern inside the General Assembly, an audience of world leaders seated before him.

Pope Francis was the fifth Pope to address the United Nations. His pro-environment message has been lauded by President Obama and Democrats but has angered some Republicans particularly those with ties to the oil industry who continue to insist global warming is fable.

Remembering The Fallen from 9/11

Also on Pope Francis’ agenda in New York City was to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the setting for an interfaith service. He shook hands and consoled relatives of those who perished during the terrorists’ attacks on September 11, 2001. Pope Francis prayed at the “Trying to Remeber the Color of the Sky on That September Morning,” which is a work of art by Spencer Finch. In addition, Pope Francis acknowledged the valiant cops, firefighters, and workers of the Twin Towers that lost their lives on that tragic day.

“This is a place where we shed tears, we weep out of a sense of helplessness in the face of injustice, murder, and the failure to settle conflicts through dialogue,” Pope Francis said while standing near the underground flood wall. “Here we mourn the wrongful and senseless loss of innocent lives because of the inability to find solutions which respect the common good.”

He described the hallowed ground as a symbol of triumph.

“This place of death became a place of life too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division,” he said.

Pope Visits East Harlem School

Pope Francis entered Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem as the dozens of animated pupils outside serenaded him with “Holy Father, We Love You!” and “When The Pope Goes Marching In.” Several of the students took selfies with the Pope. It was great watching Pope Francis joked and laughed with the youth.

Pope Francis toured a small classroom where he greeted wide-eyed children. Schoolteachers, clergy, and workers from Catholic charities followed him. A fourth grader showed Pope Francis a touch-screen science project, which enamored him. Pope Francis who admitted that he hasn’t watched TV in decades and doesn’t know how to operate a computer proved a little slow with technology. Therefore, the fourth grader flipped the screen for him to display a special message that read:

“We also Thank God for the gift of having you as our Pope.”

Pope Francis spoke for a few minutes about love, equality, and reconciliation in front of his audience. He even spoke of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Very near here is a very important street named after a man who did a lot for other people. I want to talk a little bit about him. He was the Rev. Martin Luther King. One day he said, ‘I have a dream.’ His dream was that many children, many people could have equal opportunities. His dream was that many children like you could get an education. It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for them.”

Pope Francis Takes Over Central Park

Eighty-thousand people flocked to Central Park to get a glimpse of Pope Francis as he took the Popemobile on a procession down West Drive, where he basked in the adoration. For that moment, Pope Francis was the King of Central Park. He looked rejuvenated as he smiled and blessed the cheering crowd. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Pope for many of them, and the waiting was worth it on that heavenly afternoon.

When the 15-minute procession was over, Pope Francis hopped back into his Fiat 500L for the ride down to Madison Square Garden for Mass.

Mass at MSG

Pope Francis took over the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and transformed it into a holy hall. Over 20,000 worshippers packed Madison Square Garden for papal Mass. The energy in the building was very reminiscent to a rock concert and sporting event.
When he arrived at MSG around 6 p.m., a rainbow was spotted. Inside, Pope Francis did a quick ride through on a white golf cart, waving and shaking as many hands as he could. Pope Francis got the rock star treatment as the building erupted in cheerfulness. Parents broke down in tears as Pope Francis kissed the forehead of their small child, which was memorable.

“God is living in our cities,” Pope Francis said eloquently in Spanish, which triggered the audience to applause. “In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath the rapid pace of change, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no right to be there, no right to be part of the city, they are the foreigners, their children who go without school, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly… Go out and show that God is in your midst … Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is vitally a part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in a vast history of salvation, fills us with hope … God, free us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness… Go in peace, please I ask you, don’t forget to pray for me.”

After Mass, Pope Francis headed back to the residence of the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations on East 72nd Street to rest after a long time.

God Bless You, Pope Francis!!!

By Shamarie, 28th Sep 2015


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