On Friday, Pope Francis spent the day in New York City making a speech for world leaders at the United Nations, followed by a trip to the 9/11 Memorial and a visit to a school in East Harlem.
His speech at the UN challenged world leaders to defeat widespread poverty, noting that poor countries don’t have a true presence in the UN and poor people do not have a voice.
Mahamoud Diop is a junior who interned with the UN this summer and was at their NYC headquarters on Friday prior to the pope’s speech. After hearing the speech, Diop was moved by the pope’s words and explains that it has made an effect on the UN.
“The pope has truly inspired the international community with his humanity and humility. His call for global action to end extreme poverty by 2030, to treat every human equally regardless of where they came from or what they look like, and to take care of our common home has all been well received,” said Diop.
At his visit to the 9/11 Memorial, Pope Francis prayed with families of the victims and spoke about remembrance and healing. Later on, he was shown taking time to greet, bless and kiss people on the streets before spending time with children and immigrants at Our Lady Queen of Angels School.
The popemobile and motorcade then proceeded through Central Park in uptown Manhattan as tens of thousands of people cheered on him after waiting hours just to catch a glimpse of him.
Following the Central Park procession, Pope Francis arrived at his fourth and final stop at Madison Square Garden, where he hosted a mass for 20,000 people. Of that huge crowd, there were a few Manhattan College students who were lucky enough to be there.
One of those students was Paul Senica, who jumped at the chance to see Pope Francis knowing that it was a once in a lifetime experience.
“I think he’s a very down to earth pope who takes into account the current state of the world. He is modernizing the church for the modern era, and I definitely think he is impacting our generation. He is not afraid of change and has an outspoken way of doing things,” said Senica.
The Pope’s unconventional way of leading the Catholic church that Senica mentions is a method that has left many in awe. Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis has shown support for the gay community and unwavering compassion for the poor and disabled, even challenging institutions that do not use their power and wealth to better the lives of others.
The mass proved to be even more incredible than Senica had expected. “I’m pretty speechless. It’s hard to explain the exact emotions of the night. I was amazed to see the entire garden go quiet for the moment of silence. I am honored and blessed I had the chance to go,” he said.
Another student who was able to attend the mass was junior Erica Rebussini. However, this wasn’t her first experience with Pope Francis since she had the opportunity of seeing him this summer while in Rome for a LaSallian Global Leadership Conference.
“His presence is one of peace that encourages solidarity among all types of people, which is important especially for a generation of people with great initiative and care for important global issues. Seeing the pope again was a humbling experience. The mass was a joyful celebration of our existence in one faith and love of Christ,” Rebussini said.
Pope Francis has been widely referred to as “the people’s pope” since he has acquired remarkable admiration from people of various ages and religions. This seems to stem from his profound empathy for all people and his devotion to making the world a better, more accepting place, which Rebussini addresses.
“He brought powerful insight that as people of God, we are able to witness his light amidst the busy lifestyles we lead and the distractions we encounter. A congregation of 20,000 smiling people was a huge testament to the Light that Papa Francesco carries, and his influence throughout the world. Celebrating mass with the Holy Father was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I will hold close to my heart, and that I must thank Manhattan College for,” she said.
This monumental trip was one that gave Pope Francis another platform to speak to world leaders and everyday people alike, urging us all to work towards a greater world by confronting issues regarding social justice, climate change, immigration, poverty and war.
He sent a heartfelt, genuine message that we should continually search for solutions to these larger problems we face, and also for the presence of God in one another no matter our differences.