Well, we are ready! And not only ready, but eager and excited.
I write, of course, about the upcoming visit to New York of Pope Francis.
You may have heard the ancient Latin maxim, Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, which translates, “Where Peter is, there is the Church.”
Our Catholic faith, and so many of our Christian brothers and sisters, hold that the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the successor of St. Peter. When we are close to him, the old saying goes, we are close to the core of the Church.
Well, “Peter is coming.” And we are ready!
This archdiocese has already had visits from the successors of St. Peter four other times: Blessed Pope Paul VI came a half-century ago, on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, 1965; Pope Saint John Paul II was with us twice, in 1979, and again in 1995; and, only seven years ago, Pope Benedict XVI arrived that spring, 2008.
And now, prepare to welcome our beloved Pope Francis.
The goal of the Holy Father’s visit to the United States is the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the weekend of September 26-27.
Before he ends up there, though, he’ll stop in Cuba, Washington, D.C., and here.
You know the plans: Pope Francis will get here, at JFK airport, around 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 24. After a brief greeting, he will helicopter to Manhattan, and come by car to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The final blocks approaching the Cathedral should be in his Popemobile, so crowds will be able to obtain tickets to see him along the route.
At about 6 p.m., he will enter St. Patrick’s to pray vespers, in company with representative priests, sisters, brothers, and lay faithful of the Archdiocese (and from our neighboring dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre). This event will be ticketed and by invitation only. Upon conclusion, he will go to the residence of his ambassador, his Apostolic Nuncio to the U.N., Archbishop Bernardito Auza, on 72 Street, where he will stay.
The next morning, Friday, September 25, he will spend at the United Nations. At 11:30 a.m., he is due for a silent visit to the 9/11 Memorial, then, downstairs at the museum for an Inter-Religious meeting with 500 representatives of the vast diversity of believers in the area.
At 4 p.m., he will visit Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem, where he will spend time in a classroom with representative children, teachers, and principals from four parochial schools in the area.
Then we’ll bring him next door to the gym so he can chat with hundreds of our recently arrived immigrants served so well by our Catholic Charities.
Around 5:15 p.m. he’ll make his way to Madison Square Garden, to arrive there by 6 p.m. for Mass.
Part of that ride, we hope, will be in his Popemobile, and we will publicize that route so that as many as possible can see him.
The 20,000 at the Mass will be from all the parishes in the Archdiocese, each with a ticket distributed through the parishes. (Stay tuned to an announcement from your pastor about availability). It is a long day, but before the Mass, there will be a pre-show to enjoy a program of song, talks, prayer, and the opportunity for confession.
Following Mass, the Pope returns to 72nd Street for the night, and will depart privately Saturday morning for Philadelphia.
How were the sites chosen? It was the Holy Father himself who accepted the invitation to the UN, and who asked to pray in St. Patrick’s, be with other religious leaders, to visit one of our renowned inner-city Catholic schools, and to see firsthand the welcome we give our immigrants.
Because the Vatican wants the “big Mass” in America to be on Sunday in Philadelphia, we in both D.C and New York were advised not to host a “Mega Mass”—like the past ones at Yankee Stadium or in Central Park—but a Eucharist in a more constrained venue, thus leading to Mass at Madison Square Garden.
Sure, it’s frustrating not have him for a longer time, so that more can see him, or to have thousands more participate in more and larger events.
But, we’re just thrilled he’ll be here. Our top prayer is that his hours here will bring spiritual, moral renewal to this city Pope Saint John Paul II called “the capital of the world.”