Pope Francis may be the hottest ticket at Madison Square Garden this year.
The spiritual leader of the country’s 78 million Catholics confirmed to reporters Monday he will visit New York City during a United States visit in September.
“We are overjoyed” at the impending visit, New York Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling told the Daily News.
Zwilling was involved in to prior papal visits in New York: when John Paul II visited in 1995 and Pope Benedict in 2008.
“Both were huge and full of excitement,” Zwilling said. “I imagine that this visit will be as huge, if not bigger, than those two!”
The news has thrilled “New Yorkers of all faiths,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Monday in a statement.
“Pope Francis has made fighting poverty and expanding social justice a crux of his papacy and I am excited that he will be bringing this message to New York City this fall,” she said. “I thank Cardinal Dolan for his tireless advocacy in encouraging the Papal visit and look forward to working with him and the Archdiocese to ensure that Pope Francis gets to experience the wonder and beauty of New York City’s diverse neighborhoods, communities and people.”
A preliminary outline of the Pope’s September visit would have him stop by the United Nations and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden during a three-city swing, according to a member of the organizing committee for the visit.
The New York City Mass would be a pared down version so as not to overshadow a Philadelphia stop where Francis will address the World Meeting of Families.
“He would arrive on the 22nd (of September) and he would leave the evening of the 27th. It’s really a full six days, plus the travel, so it’s really one week,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, a Philippines native and the Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN, told the Catholic News Agency on Sunday.
Details of the trip were discussed last week during a meeting of the U.S. trip organizers. Francis just wrapped up a four-day trip to Southeast Asia and is headed back to the Vatican after a Sunday Mass in front of an estimated 6 million people at Manila’s Rizal Park in the Philippines.
Francis confirmed Monday to reporters aboard the papal plane that he will visit D.C., New York and Philly. But a Vatican official told the Daily News that the Pope may squeeze in a Boston visit as well.
Time constraints will prevent Francis from visiting California, but he plans to canonize 17th-century missionary Junipero Serra, who brought Catholicism to the West Coast, during the D.C. leg, likely at the National Shrine.
September’s visit to the United States, the first papal trek stateside since Pope Benedict XVI appeared in 2008, will likely begin the evening of Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C. Pope Francis would visit the White House the next morning and meet President Obama during an official welcoming ceremony, according to CNA.
Francis would celebrate Mass at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, according to organizers.
“And we might say really the highlight of the Washington visit might be his speech to the joint meeting of Congress, so the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Archbishop Auza told CNA.
Then, it’s off to the Big Apple, where Francis would likely arrive the afternoon of Sept. 24.
The next morning, the pontiff would likely address the UN General Assembly, where a three-day Post-2014 Sustainable Development Summit is set to open.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is said to be “extremely thrilled” by the Pope’s impending visit.
Francis would stop by St. Patrick’s Cathedral at some point before celebrating Mass at MSG.
“Our plan is not to have a huge Mass outside of Philadelphia, because the focus will really be Philadelphia, because the Pope is going to the United States for the World Meeting of Families,” Auza told CNA.
Francis may fit in a stop at Ground Zero to visit the scene of the 9/11 attacks and the newly opened memorial and museum.
Then, it’s off to Philadelphia, the only confirmed stop of the papal visit. There, Francis will hold a prayer vigil the evening of the 26th and Mass on Sunday, Sept. 27. He’d also likely include “a visit either to a children’s hospital or a juvenile prison,” Auza told CNA.
“But these are just proposals. At the end of February there will be the first organizational visit (from a Vatican delegation), and then we will see what we could really fill in,” the archbishop told the outlet.
With News Wire Services