Common Sense: Pope Francis

The Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York deserve a great deal of credit for so flawlessly organizing and executing the visit of Pope Francis. Certainly the NYPD, Secret Service and numerous other security agencies plus many New York City and State government entities were also key to the effort, but the two dioceses were planning for the Catholic Church’s worldwide leader, so I suspect the pressure on them was the greatest.

The mayor, whom I rarely compliment, is owed a pat on the back for making an extraordinary and successful effort to provide some level of access to many New Yorkers who wished to see the Pope, but could not get into the very limited seating in Madison Square Garden for the Mass. The procession through Central Park was very much his idea. Even Governor Cuomo could not figure out a way to criticize.

Many local people were invited to meet the Pope upon his arrival at Kennedy. And, of course, the Xaverian Band greeted him with “New York, New York” which was highlighted on many news networks.

My friend Monsignor Kieran Harrington even got a ride over to Manhattan on one of the Marine helicopters transporting the Pope and his group. I am looking forward to hearing his stories and the stories of the others who met Pope Francis.

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The Pope had never been to the United States prior to this trip. Naturally, he could have had some misperceptions about our country that are propagated by his native South American media and its governments.

Hopefully, he is leaving our country with a better understanding of its people, their generosity and good works, the value of our freedoms and the role of the American Catholic Church in our nation.

On that note, I caught an interview with Brooklyn Bishop DiMarzio on cable TV New York 1 the day before the Pope’s arrival. I know Bishop DiMarzio and have had an opportunity to talk with him a number of times, but this interview covered some ground that I had never heard him discuss.

Host Errol Louis asked the bishop about the Vatican and in particular the Pope’s role in administering the local dioceses in the United States. Bishop DiMarzio, using a management term, called the organization flat in matters other than spiritual and doctrinal, with the Vatican offering general guidance and requiring a biannual report, but otherwise, from an administrative perspective, the Catholic Church in America essentially runs its own affairs.

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I was somewhat perplexed by the massive security around the Pope’s visit. In Italy, inside the Vatican, on the streets of Rome and in the Italian countryside, the Pope moves around with relatively few bodyguards and/or in a small motorcade consisting of maybe four vehicles and a couple of motorcycle police.

Observers who have seen both Presidential motorcades and the most recent ones in Washington and New York for Pope Francis say those motorcades — which can easily have 25 vehicles in them — were dwarfed by the size and scope of this security arrangement.

Of course, I can understand the special heightened security due to the high profile nature of this trip. Better safe than sorry does sum it up nicely, but you do wonder if it could have been over the top.

This Pope can be found in the front pew of a church quietly praying with the faithful or simply desiring to interact with those who would be comforted by his presence. He probably would have preferred to have made a slightly smaller splash at least in terms of the barriers created by the security to keep the general public at something of a distance.

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