Pope plans Yonkers visit
By GARY STERNTHE JOURNAL NEWS
Pope Benedict XVI will meet with youth at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, celebrate Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral and Yankee Stadium, pay his respects at Ground Zero and address the United Nations during his first papal trip to the U.S. in April.
Extensive planning for the trip to Washington, D.C., and New York has been under way for months, with advance teams visiting several locations in New York. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, revealed the details yesterday in Baltimore at the start of the annual fall meeting of U.S. bishops.
Sambi said the pope would visit Ground Zero to show "solidarity with those who have died, with their families, and with all those who wish an end of violence and in the search of peace."
Benedict's April 15-20 trip will be right on time to help celebrate the 200th birthday of the archdioceses of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, Ky., all of which were created in 1808.
The pope is scheduled for a visit St. Joseph's - known throughout the Catholic world by its Yonkers address, Dunwoodie - on the afternoon of April 19. He will meet with youth and seminarians and celebrate that day his third anniversary as pope.
Pope John Paul II visited the seminary on the late afternoon of Oct. 6, 1995, during his most high-profile American trip, and urged several hundred seminarians from across the region to deliver the full Christian message to their future parishes.
"It's humbling that a pope is coming back to Dunwoodie," said the Rev. Gerard F. Rafferty, chairman of the Scripture Department at St. Joseph's. "It is a great blessing for the church of New York, the church of the United States, that the chief shepherd is coming after some of the crises we've gone through. We at the seminary are thrilled he is coming back for any part of the visit."
Benedict has been to Yonkers before. On Jan. 27, 1988, when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he visited Dunwoodie with Cardinal John O'Connor to address an academic conference.
Monsignor William Smith, who has taught moral theology at St. Joseph's for more than three decades, thought the 1995 papal visit to Dunwoodie would be one-of-a-kind.
"I said it was the last time that something like this would happen," Smith said.
It appears that he was wrong.
Benedict XVI will celebrate his 81st birthday while in Washington on April 16, and he is not nearly as enamored with travel as his predecessor. So it's possible that this will be his only visit to New York - or perhaps the United States.
He is expected to arrive in Washington on April 15 and to be formally greeted at the White House the next day. While in Washington, he will address the nation's Catholic bishops, Catholic educational leaders and an unspecified interreligious gathering.
On April 18, he will address the United Nations General Assembly, the centerpiece of the entire trip, and host an ecumenical meeting at a Manhattan church. The following day he will celebrate Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral for priests, deacons and religious orders, and then visit Dunwoodie in the afternoon.
On the April 19, he will celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium. Tickets probably will be distributed through parishes.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, openly campaigned for the pope to visit his city and help it heal from its disastrous sex-abuse scandal. But Boston did not make the final itinerary because of Vatican concerns about the pope's stamina.
New York will experience its fourth papal visit. Pope Paul VI became the first pope to visit the U.S. when he came to New York in October 1965. John Paul II came twice, in October 1979, when he was still an unknown to many, and in 1995, when he was at the height of his traveling evangelist powers.
Time will tell how Benedict, an erudite theologian who has the ability to speak and write plainly, will connect with New Yorkers.
For the Archdiocese of New York, which has been struggling to draw seminarians to replace its aging priests, Benedict's visit to Dunwoodie promises to be the best possible marketing campaign.
The Rev. Luke Sweeney, director of vocations for the archdiocese, said that when he first heard months ago of a planned papal visit to New York, he asked Cardinal Edward Egan to put in a plug for a stop at Dunwoodie.
"For him to visit the seminary will highlight some young men who are preparing to give their lives completely to God and his service," Sweeney said. "For him to come to Dunwoodie will highlight the priesthood in the Archdiocese of New York and give people an opportunity to see inside a place they would not otherwise know much about."
Security, of course, will be tremendous for Benedict. Those without tickets or credentials should not expect to get close to any papal event. Faculty members at St. Joseph's Seminary still joke about the extent of Secret Service precautions for John Paul II's visit, and that was before Sept. 11.
Monsignor Francis McAree, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church in Harrison, who was rector of St. Joseph's for the 1995 visit, said it was a lot of work but well worth it.
"Logistically, it was everything involving the Secret Service, a lockdown, the securing of the property, everything," he said. "There was a lot to do. But everyone will be extremely happy to hear the words of the pope. Certainly, it is a tremendous honor for the seminary."
When Ratzinger visited Dunwoodie in 1988 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he gave a talk about the study of Scripture.
"He gave an outstanding address on the nature of Scripture scholarship," McAree recalled. "Many of the things he said there can be found in his present book 'Jesus of Nazareth.' "
Also during his stop in Yonkers, a maple tree was planted in his honor on the seminary grounds. On April 19, the pope is likely to stop and see how tall it's grown.
The papal itinerary for 2008 visit
An outline of Pope Benedict XVI's first American trip, as released yesterday by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States:-
April 15: Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Washington, D.C.-
April 16: The pope, on his birthday, is welcomed at the White House and addresses the U.S. bishops in the afternoon.-
April 17: The pope celebrates Mass at the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium, meets with Catholic educational leaders at Catholic University, and attends an interreligious meeting at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.-
April 18: Now in New York, the pope addresses the United Nations in the morning and attends an ecumenical meeting in the afternoon.-
April 19: On the third anniversary of his pontificate, Benedict celebrates Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in the morning and visits St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers during the afternoon to meet with youth and seminarians.-
April 20: The pope visits Ground Zero in the morning and celebrates Mass at Yankee Stadium in the afternoon. He returns to Rome in the evening.