NEW YORK — When the white golf cart suddenly entered Madison Square Garden Friday evening and started coasting past the aisles, the estimated 20,000 worshippers in attendance went wild. One might have thought Harry Connick Jr. or Jennifer Hudson was still on stage singing "How Great Thou Art" or "Hallelujah." But no, it was only Pope Francis. And the man viewed as the vicar of Christ on earth by the Catholic faithful reminded the flock of their duty to go and tell others about God and what He was doing in their city.
The pope, leader of the world's more than 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, has a noticeable effect on his flock.
Men and women scream, some cry and couples extend their newborns and toddlers toward the pontiff in hopes of receiving a blessing. No one can get the pope and his vehicle to slow down quite like children can. Francis, when he greets the faithful, seems to have a special affinity for the young and, also noticeably, for the disabled or those with medical challenges. more >>
NEW YORK — It would be several hours before Pope Francis would eventually arrive for a solemn interfaith service at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum honoring victims of the September 11 terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan Friday morning but he was already proving to be a unifying force among the diverse throng of invited guests who were patiently waiting to meet him.
And for Monsignor Donald Beckmann of the St. Ignatius Martyr Church in Long Beach, Brooklyn, it was a sign. A sign said Beckmann of Francis' unifying effect which he says is due to more than anything else, the pontiff's simple presentation of himself as a proclaimer of Jesus. Nothing more.
"I think one of the things that I've been touched by is the way so many groups of Christians, including Evangelicals, have noticed the way that his focus is not on himself, his focus is on Jesus," said Beckmann as he waited along Church Street between Liberty and Cortlandt Streets to get past the security check-point to the museum. "Jesus is the one we share in common, Francis sees himself as someone who proclaims Jesus and in that, he can be what we Catholics feel the papacy is meant to be — a focus of unity for all the Christian people." more >>
NEW YORK — Surveys have found that most Roman Catholics are head-over-heels in love with their new pope, and according to several of the faithful who turned out for Francis-led services this week in New York City, the surveys are absolutely right.
Everyone asked among the more than 2,000 people in attendance at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan for evening prayer (Vespers) on Thursday all said the same thing in a variety of ways: Pope Francis is different; he's a man of the people; he's humble; he's hands-on.
The sentiment was expressed by both older and younger generations of Roman Catholics. more >>
NEW YORK — In a historic speech delivered at the opening of the 70th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations Friday, Pope Francis called for a defense of the environment and a recognition and adherence to "moral law" in society while knocking abortion, war, Christian persecution and "anomalous" lifestyles.
"Man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature. Creation is compromised where we ourselves have the final word. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves. When we see nothing else but ourselves," said Francis who is the first Pope to address the opening session of the General Assembly.
"Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself. One which includes the natural difference between man and woman and the absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions," he said to applause. more >>
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini, has met with over 100 Parliamentarians from nearly 50 countries to urge them to sign a letter calling for her husband's release. This week marks Abedini's third anniversary in prison, as well as the 70th session of the General Assembly of the U.N. in New York, which Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will attend.
"We are alarmed by ongoing reports of violations of this fundamental freedom for religious minorities, including Christians and the Bahá'ís. We respectfully ask you to ensure that all individuals in Iran, be they Muslim, Christian, Bahá'í, Atheist, Zoroastrian, Jew or from another faith, can fully enjoy freedom of religion or belief without fear of violence or discrimination," states the letter, which was signed by 67 Parliamentarians following Abedini's speech.
"We are particularly concerned about Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been jailed for nearly three years. We understand he has been held in intolerable conditions for merely peacefully exercising his faith in private homes. We specifically request the release of Mr. Abedini, as well as other Christians," it continues. more >>
NEW YORK — Amy Williams, a half-black, half-Irish youth ministry leader born in Maine, was living in North Carolina when she decided to pack her bags and find a new home in Chicago's Puerto Rican-dominated Humboldt Park, the neighborhood otherwise known as the motherland, or birthplace of the notorious Latin Kings street gang.
But Williams, a certified gang intervention specialist who founded the platform A Hope Dealer for her ministry work, said the decision to move was not so much hers as it was God's.
The transition to a new home came after what Williams said was God speaking to her frustrations about a burden she felt to reach young people in the streets. At the time, she was a youth pastor at her church in North Carolina and was mentoring kids, but that just wasn't enough. more >>