I attended the Pope’s Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral April 19 — a special privilege, since most papal Masses in the United States have been in stadiums.

One thing that struck me from the “press box” (a bank of folding chairs in front of a side altar with an obstructed view of the main altar) was the number of vociferous, almost rowdy, rounds of applause and cheers that went up from the pews. After all, this was a cathedral full of priests, nuns, deacons and religious. I didn’t count, but the communicants must have communicated their love for the Holy Father at least a dozen times. I wondered how Pope Benedict felt about the adulation.

At the close of Mass, in an apparently impromptu statement, he both warmly thanked his wowed and vowed “fans” — and, with fatherly gentleness, reminded them whose shoes he wears.

“I will do all that is possible to be a [worthy] successor of the great St. Peter, who also was a man with his faults and sins, but he remains finally the rock for the Church.

“And so also I, with all my poorness — spiritual [poorness] — can be, with the grace of the Lord in this time, the successor of Peter.”

Thank you, Holy Father. And Amen again.

— David Pearson


The Neocatechumenal Way, across from the United Nations on Friday (Day 4), were a lively bunch. As some stood at the front of the police pen that had been set up in an area known for U.N. protest rallies, others behind them danced in a big circular motion as guitars and drum kept a lively tempo. Banners in front proclaimed warm sentiments for the guest who was about to arrive.

Samuel Gonzalez told me the empty pen next to them had been set up for those who wished to express opposite sentiments. The pen was empty. “There was a guy there a little while ago, but he just left,” Gonzalez said.

Eventually, about six people entered the protest pen, one of whom was also doing a kind of dance, walking around dragging the U.S. flag with her feet. Meanwhile, the Neocatechumenal Way people held court for hours, singing and dancing and praying.

What a contrast.

— John Burger

Decoy Pope

From four Manhattan churches, people processed to the residence of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Whoever organized this Catholic convergence on 72nd and Madison has to be given a lot of credit. I know that Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Sisters of Life and Communion and Liberation were involved with the planning. But to organize something like this sort of spur-of-the-moment, when the Secret Service, the NYPD and the Swiss Guard had all kinds of security measures in place, was remarkable.

There had to be several thousand people out there — 99% of them young. People sang Happy Birthday, chanted Viva il Papa, sang Latin hymns. Friars with guitar and drum led a spirited song of praise.

Finally, at 9:10, Benedict appeared at the window on the third floor of the residence. He stayed for 20 minutes, waving to his admirers....

.... Or so it seemed to most of us. Someone who was closer to the building told me later that she could see the person in the window — and it was clearly not Benedict.

The police “would never let him appear at a window like that,” she said.

As it turned out, the Pope met with a select group of people under the tent in front of the building’s entrance. One was Communion and Liberation member Henry Artis.

Said Artis, who thanked Benedict for being Pope: “You feel like you’re the only one there because he gives you all his attention.”

— John Burger

Ronald McDonald

The Ronald McDonald House in New York is a “home away from home” for kids being treated here for cancer, said Patrick Lenz, director of major gifts. Thanks to some New York police officers, several children and their families staying at the house were able to meet the Pope April 19.

“We just finished an activity with the kids, when they came and said, ‘If you want to see the Pope, let’s go,’” Lenz said. Several of them went with families to Archbishop Migliore’s residence. “They got us through security quickly,” Lenz related. The Pope “held some of our children and blessed them.”

Babies were passed to the front row, and the Pope blessed them. “You could see the twinkle in his eyes,” Lenz told me. He said the Pope was “energized.”

— John Burger