Saturday, April 19, 2008

Benedict's Big Apple Anniversary

Three years ago today, Joseph Ratzinger was elected to the papacy, taking the name Benedict XVI. And on this anniversary, with his encounters with the world's representatives of politics and faith squared away, the pontiff's focus returns to the church both across the US and, in a particular way, in this place the Vatican sees as the "capital of the world."

At 9am, cheered on by a ticket-only gallery stretching down blocks of Fifth Avenue, the Popemobile will be received on the steps of St Patrick's Cathedral, as Cardinal Edward Egan and the rector, Msgr Robert Ritchie, are joined by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At the quarter-hour, after an initial pause for prayer inside the Great Bronze Doors and a vesture-change, Benedict will celebrate a Votive Mass for the Universal Church with representatives of the clergy and religious from each of the nation's 195 dioceses in the church long recognized as Stateside Catholicism's de facto "capitol building," the nation's most-visited, best-loved house of worship. Though it's the fourth papal visit to St Pat's, today will be the first time a pontiff has celebrated the Eucharist within its walls.

The Pope's message is expected to be a staunch, moving affirmation of the work of the national church's most unsung laborers, especially in light of the difficulties they've faced from all sides in recent years. Following the liturgy, Benedict will move behind the cathedral to 452 Madison, the legendary residence or "Powerhouse" of the Gotham archbishops, for lunch with Egan and his auxiliaries.

After a brief riposo at the Mission House on 72nd Street, the spotlight moves to Yonkers -- more specifically, Dunwoodie, home of St Joseph's Seminary. On his arrival at 4.30pm, the pontiff will hold a prayer service for disabled children in the seminary chapel, before moving outside for one of this visit's three main public events: the youth rally before a crowd now estimated at 26,000. As has been well noted, the first American Idol Kelly Clarkson is among the artists slated to perform for Benedict. The Pope is scheduled to head back to the city by 6.30.

Yet again, live and archived webstreams will be available from the USCCB and Boston's Catholic TV... and the layout for all three of today's events can be found in the Visit Missal.

Suffice it to say for now, there's an amazing feeling all over this town tonight. More on that after a bit of rest... and, of course, the post-delivery text-drops.

PHOTOS: Reuters(1); AFP/Getty(2)