Pope cheered as he begins Big Apple whirlwind tour

Published: Friday 25th September 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Pope Francis plunged into the melting pot of New York after reminding the country of its immigrant origins in the first papal speech before the US Congress.

At an evening prayer service in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Francis thanked American nuns for their strength and courage in a deeply meaningful acknowledgement of their service following a years-long Vatican crackdown.

In New York, Francis will address world leaders at the United Nations, participate in an inter-faith service at the September 11 memorial and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.

He will visit a school in Harlem and take a drive through Central Park, in a whirlwind tour of the Big Apple that got off to a quintessential welcome with a high school brass band serenading him with New York, New York on the airport tarmac.

The popular pontiff received raucous cheers upon his arrival in Manhattan. Thousands of people lined the streets leading to St Patrick’s to greet him, cheering, waving flags and adoringly chanting his name as he gestured towards them from his popemobile.

On the steps of the recently spruced-up cathedral, dignitaries including state governor Andrew Cuomo, mayor Bill de Blasio and US senator Charles Schumer welcomed him for an evening vespers service.

Once inside, the pews full of US priests and sisters erupted in applause when Francis told American nuns that he wanted to thank them for their strength, spirit and courage and to “tell you that I love you very much”.

It was the strongest expression yet of his gratitude for American nuns after the Vatican under his predecessor ordered an overhaul of the largest umbrella group of US sisters, accusing them of straying from church teaching.

The nuns denied the charge and received an outpouring of support from American Catholics, and the crackdown ended this year, two years early, with no major changes.

Earlier, in Washington, the Pope waded into bitter disputes while speaking to Congress, entreating the nation to share its immense wealth with those less fortunate. He urged Congress and the nation to abolish the death penalty, fight global warming and embrace immigrants. Politicians gave rousing ovations to the leader of the world’s Catholics despite obvious disagreements over some of his pleas.

He underscored his message by travelling to a central Washington church, where he mingled with needy and homeless people, blessed their lunchtime meal and walked among them while they ate.

Francis wraps up his visit this weekend in Philadelphia, where he speaks in front of Independence Hall and celebrates Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to close out a big Catholic family rally.

At the Capitol, the remarkable sight of the Pope speaking in the House of Representatives chamber seemed to delight members of all persuasions, though he offered an agenda more to Democrats’ liking.

Besides his focus on climate change and immigration, he condemned arms sales and seemed to allude approvingly to the Iran nuclear deal and recent actions by President Barack Obama’s administration to open relations with Cuba, done with his urging.

Republicans, too, heard something to like in his references to the sanctity of life and family relations, reminders that even the more open Catholic Church over which Francis presides still condemns abortion and gay marriage.

The Pope’s jam-packed tour began last weekend in Cuba and included a White House ceremony and Washington parade in his popemobile on Wednesday. At the United Nations today, he is sure to make many of the points emphasised in Washington – a need for openness to immigrants and for the world to share its riches with the needy.

At the Capitol, Francis, in deliberate and accented English, noted that many Congress members descended from immigrants and the US was founded by foreigners “who came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom”.

“Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated,” he said. “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.”

Francis has called for a more welcoming attitude towards migrants across the board and has backed that up with a modest welcome of his own. The Vatican recently took in two refugee families and has committed to care for them while they await their asylum applications.

Published: Friday 25th September 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Local business search