The U.N. invited Pope Benedict XVI to NYC earlier this year and the pontiff just accepted. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extended the invite recently and the pope agreed to an as-yet-unscheduled visit. The previous pope, John Paul II, visited New York twice, in 1979 and again in 1995. His first visit was frenetic in a manner that belied the man's later physical frailty:
He headed first to the United Nations, where he met with the secretary-general, Kurt Waldheim, and addressed the General Assembly. The pope then had lunch with the pope's representative to the United Nations, Archbishop Giovanni Cheli, at the legate's Manhattan apartment. It was then off to the seat of Catholicism in New York, St. Patrick's Cathedral, where John Paul II met with Cardinal Terrence Cooke before celebrating Mass. More than 3,000 priests, brothers, and nuns were in attendance.
After Mass, the pope traveled to St. Charles Borromeo Church on West 141st Street in Harlem, which was celebrating its 90th anniversary. Then it was off to the South Bronx, where the pope was greeted by the Reverend Neal Connolly, vicar of the South Bronx, and visited a church-sponsored housing project. While in the area, then very much the symbol of urban decay, the pope urged the poor not to despair.
He ended the day at Yankee Stadium where he addressed 80,000 mostly middle-class New Yorkers, urging them to treat the poor as their "brothers and sisters."
The next day started with a rousing celebration at Madison Square Garden, where 19,000 teenagers joined the pope as he was entertained by music and song.
From there, the pope headed downtown in style. He was treated to a tickertape parade down Broadway to lower Manhattan, where he took part in a ceremony saluting New York's Jewish community.
A planned stop at the Daytop Village rehabilitation center had to be scratched when, in the only glitch during the visit, a rifle was reportedly seen from a high window at Battery Park City. It was later determined the report had been a hoax.
Pope John Paul II concluded his visit to New York City with a Mass at Shea Stadium, telling the capacity crowd of more than 52,000, "A city needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings."
Good lord! That's an agenda any politician or religious person might have difficulty duplicating. Perhaps Pope Benedict has something to share with the Cardinal about all the church closings going on in the city.