In less than seven days Pope Francis stirred up #popemania on the entire Eastern seaboard, from the nation’s capital to New York City just about everyone had Pope fever, including non-believers.
From his first stop in Washington D.C., Pope Francis captivated the hearts of the world when he allowed security to bring him an eager little girl up to his Popemobile who was desperate to get his attention while he drove through Ellipse and the National Mall.
Little Sophie Cruz, and her dad, made a pilgrimage to D.C. from Los Angeles with one mission in mind: to tell the Pope that he must talk to congress to address about immigration reform. She recited the letter she had given the Pope by memory:
“My name is Sophie Cruz. I am 5 years old. I am an American citizen with Mexican roots. I live in Los Angeles, California, in a heart of agriculture. My parents are immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico. Pope Francis, I want to tell you that my heart is heart is sad," she continued. “I would like to ask you to speak with the president and the Congress in legalizing my parents, because every day I am scared that one day they will take them away from me.”
The Cruz family are fellow members of downtown L.A.'s Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, and will surely have a large greeting of their own when they return to their hometown.
The following day Pope Francis, indeed, met with congress as his full itinerary said he would, and talked about several key issues including immigration, the environment, and the poor.
“I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,’” he said.
On immigration he stated:
“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants,” he said. “Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.”
The following day Pope Francis jet-setted to New York City via helicopter (and a Fiat) and went straight to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where thousands of people lined up on Fifth Avenue to welcome him. One woman, who was five blocks away from the church and wouldn’t even catch a glimpse of the Pope, was still taken by so much emotion of just being somewhat close to his presence that tears strolled down her face.
On day four, the Pope had a full day that included an assembly at the United Nations, a prayer and blessing at the 9/11 memorial, a parade in Central Park, and a mass at Madison Square Garden, where more than 200 ministries served approximately 25,000 communion wafers to attendees. Gloria Estefan, Harry Connick Jr., and Jennifer Hudson, also performed at MSG 2-hour event.
All throughout the streets of New York, people tried to secure their spot along the Pope’s route. Lots of moms and daughters were there, including one young lady who told us that she ditched school on a day she had a test so that she could wait for the Pope on 34th Street hours before he was scheduled to arrive.
One of the “most important” stops was the Pope’s visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem.
"We think this is the perfect place for Pope Francis to be,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities.
"Very near here is a very important street named after a man who did a lot for other people. I want to talk a little bit about him. He was the Reverend Martin Luther King. One day he said, 'I have a dream,'" Francis said, in Spanish, to the elementary school students.
“His dream was that many children like you could get an education," Francis said. "It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for them.”
The Pope wrapped up his U.S. visit with a weekend in Philadelphia that included a mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul and a visit with organizers, volunteers, and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families at Atlantic Aviation.
Latino pop star Juanes was chosen to sing for the Pope, along with Andrea Bocelli and the Philadelphia Orchestra. “He's a very accepting person, a person who brings people together,” Juanes said. "So being there as a Colombian, as a Latino, singing to him in Spanish, is a real honor.”
On his last day in the U.S. the Pope privately met with a small group of victims of clergy sexual abuse, and vowed that “all responsible will be held accountable.”
“I carry in my heart the stories, the suffering and the pain of the minors that have been sexually abused by priests,” Francis said. “I’m overwhelmed by the shame that people who were in charged of caring for those young ones raped them and caused them great damages.”
If you still have Pope fever long after he's back home at the Vatican in Rome, you can also take him home with you via album. Yes, Pope Francis is a solidified rock star too! While he was visiting the U.S., he officially announced the debut of his Italian prog-rock album titled "Wake Up!." The album won't be released until November (right in time for the holidays!), but here's a snippet below. We're awake, Pope!