By Simek Shropshire
This past week in New York City was especially hectic with the arrival of Pope Francis, who was on a ten-day tour of North America. Francis, 78, drew tens of thousands of people over the course of his much awaited three-day visit throughout Manhattan. This visit came as a pit-stop for the Pope, who also visited the cities of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.
Pope Francis’ papal duties in New York began with the Vespers Service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue on Thursday evening, Sept. 23. He opened his homily with a prayer for the Muslim pilgrims who had died earlier in the week in Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet, the most noteworthy and applauded aspect of his homily came with his praise of the women who had built the American Church, in which he directed much of said praise to and about nuns. Following the conclusion of the Vespers Service, the Pope made a point to visit children, women, and the disabled as he made his way out of the cathedral.
Waiting outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to welcome the papal procession was Shay Haile, FCRH ‘17. “There was definitely an air of excitement, and everyone was so thrilled and grateful,” said Haile. “The crowd around me was cheering for everything it saw, such as when people passed by and when police officers passed by. That’s just how excited everyone was. She said that though the atmosphere on Fifth Avenue was charged prior to the Pope’s arrival, Pope Francis was initially met with little applause as his procession neared the Cathedral. “There was definitely a state of awe felt by everyone when his car approached. I just felt really lucky that I could have that opportunity and see firsthand, for myself, someone so influential and [in my opinion] progressive in the Catholic Church.”
Pope Francis began his second day in New York with an address at the UN, the first of his tenure as Pope. In this address, he urged both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to choose environmental and social justice over power and material prosperity.
Pope Francis tied the worsening of the environment to the disadvantagement of the poor, who are “cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the consequences of abuse of the environment. These phenomena are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.’” Pope Francis’ agenda coincided with the U.N.’s Agenda 2030, a global set of goals focused on caring for the environment and for the poor that are projected to be reached by the year 2030.
Pope Francis also praised numerous countries for the agreement with Iran on the nuclear energy program and received substantial applause for his support of education for girls. Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban in 2012, offered her applause from the balcony of the General Assembly hall following Pope Francis’ speech.
Douglas Spring, FCRH ’17, watched the address in his dorm room.
“I think it meant so much to the global community for Pope Francis to address the U.N. Millions of people across the globe admire him because he has brought new life to the Catholic Church,” Spring said. “The address at the U.N. reiterated his message of global peace, which can only be achieved together.”
On Friday, the Pope visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan before making a procession through Central Park on his wryly termed “Popemobile.”
He then traveled south to Madison Square Garden, where he delivered the Papal Mass in front of well over 20,000 people. The 90-minute Mass reinforced the Pope’s message of peace and presented an ode to the city about how the poorest people often go unnoticed on the streets: “[The poor] are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity.”
At the closing of the Mass, Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan took the stage to express the gratitude shared by New Yorkers for Pope Francis’ visit.
Billboards across the city displayed advertisements for Fordham and emphasized the Jesuit tradition that are central to the university’s identity. Fordham also held an online lottery for students to obtain free tickets to the papal processions. All three campuses were also abuzz with activity as many dorms and public spaces showed live coverage of the Pope’s every move.