By: María Alejandra Pulgar, @marialepulgar
DORAL, FL – The morning commute this Thursday was frantic as usual on the subway: Kids walking to school; women with big purses wearing tennis shoes to be able to walk fast on the crowded streets; dressed up characters ready for photo ops in Time Square; a long line of tourists looking forward to finding cheap tickets for Broadway shows.
Besides a few big banners nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the barricades to prevent the proximity of unauthorized people to the building, few things reveal that a distinguished visitor will be arriving within hours.
Not many people on the streets are talking about the arrival of Pope Francis this afternoon at JFK and his planned transit of the Pope Mobile from Wall Street Heliport to the Cathedral to office the Vespers prayers, the second most important of the Prayers of the Hours Liturgy for Catholics.
It could be because many are non-believers, it could be that many are busy with their daily lives, it could be some kind of ‘post-traumatic stress’ against big crowds, given the experience on 9/11 and the fear of threats against the Pope, but people are not crowding the streets as someone would have expected at a Papal visit that has been distinguished by a tight security at all levels.
As always, walking the extra mile to have the city ready for the visit are the NYPD officers, who can be found in great numbers around the areas where public will be able to see the Pope. They are knowledgeable of the procedures and locations both for media covering the event and for the public, and are quick to offer guidance to lost commuters.
It was left to see if the emotion that surrounded the Pope in Washington DC would follow him to New York once people came out of work and the time of his arrival approached. By midday the city that never sleeps did not look like stopping to wait for him.
A controlled crowd greeted the Pope
Following the end of the workday the areas surrounding St. Patrick’s Cathedral started to receive pilgrims waving Vatican flags, waiting for the motorcade with the Pope Mobile to pass by towards the recently renovated church.
A limited amount of public who received tickets at their parishes was allowed passed through the barricades NYPD and the Secret Service placed along 5th avenue from three to four blocks away. Only accredited press with second level passes were allowed as well.
Some were there for mere curiosity, but those who came genuinely interested on getting a glimpse of the Pope waited praying, singing and waving their flags. Pilgrims, many of them tourists in New York City, came from Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina and Venezuela and stood nearby Rockefeller Plaza, with their mobile phones ready to capture any possible shot.
Four blocks away, in Times Square, the fast pace of the city continued, oblivious of the presence in their lands of the Vicar of Christ.
After praying the Solemn Vespers and being welcomed to New York by Cardinal Dolan, a very tired Pope Francis retired to rest for his packed agenda for Friday. He is going to spend the night at the house of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Vatican to the UN. That way they can ride together tomorrow to the first item on the agenda, the address to the United Nations, being Francis the fourth pope to have that honor.