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Faces of Faith / Rostros de Fe - Manhattan Times

Posted by: Erik Cuello  in Español, Local, News, Politics/Government, Public Safety September 9, 2015

“The Church is of the poor, and for the poor”

Papal visit with immigrants and refugees

Like many residents, Mamdadou Drame is looking forward to Pope Francis’ visit later this month.
He is excited that the pontiff has included New York City on his first U.S. visit.

“I wish this example of unity will spread around the world,” he said. But Drame will not have to vie for a lottery ticket from the city or camp out on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a glimpse. Instead, Drame will be one in a select group of residents chosen to meet with the Pope in a private audience uptown.
Though the father of three expects to speak with Francis, he will not see him. Drame is a visually impaired Muslim activist originally from Guinea. The Pope’s advocacy for the disabled has drawn his attention – and his admiration.

“[This is] an opportunity to feel the unity between Muslims and Christians,” said Drame.

This past Thurs., Sept. 3rd, the specific plans for the Pope’s visit uptown were detailed at St. Cecilia’s Parish on East 106th Street.  The leader of the Catholic Church will be traveling to East Harlem on Sept. 25th on what will be a whirlwind 2-day trip through the city.

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York (Catholic Charities), explained that the Pope would meet and bless immigrants and refugees, including Drame, at Our Lady Queen of Angels School on Thurs., Sept. 25th directly after services at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum downtown.

Catholic Charities, a non-profit group of social service organizations, has helped to select the group of immigrants and refugees, many from the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, to meet with the Pope.

The group, which Sullivan referred to as “the fabric of New York,” includes young unaccompanied migrants, mothers, day laborers, and refugees from all over the world
Approximately 15 different immigrant groups will be represented.

“We are very pleased that the message that Pope Francis has articulated, that the church is of the poor and for the poor, is resonating,” Sullivan said. “We’re so proud of that message.”

Sullivan said the Pope’s decision to travel uptown was also concordant with his overarching message of inclusiveness, and of ensuring that those less fortunate are treated with dignity.

“East Harlem is incredibly important,” said Sullivan. “This was a place that has always welcomed newcomers.”
Organizers have sought to keep the event simple.

Those in attendance will meet with the Pope in an informal, intimate setting, and deliver personal gifts of their choosing. The Pope will then read from Matthew’s Gospel, pray, and offer blessings.

Directly after, he will move to Central Park for a processional and then to Madison Square Garden to celebrate Mass.

“East Harlem is incredibly important,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan.

“The event is going to be a fabulous opportunity to bring together what I believe is the face of migration in America,” said Mario Russell, Director of Immigration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities. “This question of migration is really at the heart of Pope Francis’s concerns.”

Our Lady Queen of Angels School will host Pope Francis.

Russell recalled following the Pope in July 2013 to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where many migrants fleeing civil war and violence in the Middle East and Africa have sought refuge.  There, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in honor of the thousands of migrants who have died crossing from North Africa.

It was his first official trip outside Rome since his election.

As Odette Manzano listened to the speakers, she held her son Steven close.

Manzano, a devout Catholic, immigrated from Mexico over two decades ago, and she kept her eyes fixed on the podium.
When asked about her time with the Pope, she smiled quietly.

“I’m [just] really excited.”

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