NYC had company…..and what a wonderful guest he was. Without fuss, and arriving with an arsenal of pure love, joy, laughter, good will and humility, this angel on earth, this regal and holy man of the church, Pope Francis made his first papal visit to New York City. After hopping all over the city in his cute Fiat mobile, he managed to pack quite a punch during his stint in the (212.) He addressed the United Nations General Assembly, toured and payed respect at Ground Zero, greeted the masses in Central Park, visited schoolchildren in East Harlem, said mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, participated in an interfaith sevice, and wound up his world wind tour with a seemingly intimate mass in front of several thousand people at Madison Square Garden, a once in a lifetime event, that I was so very fortunate to be invited to attend. My sweet mother and I were among the thousands of people – nuns, children, handicapped, firefighters, invalids, teachers, and many survivors of war, homeland tragedy, homelessness, imprisonment, class warfare, immigration reform, gender discrimination, racial divide that the Pope spoke so highly of, and with such eloquence.
These local heroes were not only New Yorkers, but OOT’ers that arrived at Penn Station from places far away, and they all got what they came for – they were instantly touched by his wonderful humility and spirituality. He spoke about rebirth and recovery, about peace, about forgiveness and he pleaded for us to be open, to work to make a difference, to forgive and forget, to practice patience and tolerance. Practices and principles, he said, that need to be performed in order for this city to heal, to unite. This soft spoken, jovial Argentinian theologian, embraced a hard edged city of perhaps, skeptical strangers with a familiar, but lapsed 101 message of hope and compassion. His words, in whatever language he chose to share, were clear- they were heartfelt. Pope Francis believes and subscribes to a power greater than himself, his power of speech was pretty great also – restorative, in such a short program, even. The ambiance at the Garden was electric and hoards of well-wishers, papal pals became enamored by his purity of spirit and his sophomoric approach to brotherhood. He pleaded for us to be perfect, the way God intended us to be and to just do the next right thing as half measures avail us nothing. He began by quoting a passage from the St. Francis Prayer, he prayed to “make me a channel of thy peace,” and then he closed his sermon with an innocent request, an unusual sentiment. He said “Please pray for me, too.” And so we did.
Photographs by C.Greene