Papal Visit: John DeLuca & Mike LaCrosse in NYC

By News Staff

Reporting by John DeLuca and Mike LaCrosse 

Security was tight Friday in America’s busiest city as the Pope made his rounds around Manhattan. Streets were closed off and 37 miles of police barricades were up to protect the Holy Father. Thousands waited hours on 5th Avenue for just a glimpse of the Pontiff.

Friday, Pope Francis addressed world leaders at the U.N. but it was his stop at the powerful 9/11 Memorial that was the most moving to so many who lost loved ones; the Holy Father taking time to pray at New York’s most sacred site.

ABC6 anchors, John DeLuca and Mike LaCrosse have hit the road to follow the Pope as he completes the last leg of his U.S. trip.

The Pope’s visit is a big deal in more ways than one. Papal travel outside of Italy was very rare until after 1929, with only a few actually coming to the states. Pope Francis is the fourth Pope to visit the United States, and his journey marks the tenth time a Pope has stepped foot on U.S. soil.

"He wants to show the face of the church to the United States," says Providence College theology professor, Father John Vidmar. He says Papal travel outside of Italy was very rare until after 1929, when the Vatican City State recognized making the Pope a diplomat.

Pope Paul VI was the first to make the trip in 1965.

"He had the big mass in Yankee Stadium and then he spoke to the United Nations… that was a very big deal," says Father Vidmar. "Its great for public relations. Expensive, but it’s worth it."

Pope John Paul II made seven visits during his papacy and Benedict XVI made one–the last to do so in 2008.

The Popes have met presidents, leaders of congress, visited the United stations and celebrated mass in dozens of cities, in front of hundred of thousands of people.

Father Vidmar says it’s also an experience for Catholics to have a personal connection with the leader of their church. "It’s a great thing to see the person, in person. To see him coming down the street is fantastic."

Who is Pope Francis?

"He is one who wants to leave a mark upon the church," says Providence College Theology Professor and Papal Expert, Dr. James Keating. He says the Holy Father is what is known as a "Change Pope."

"He tackling issues in the church that have been long neglected," says Keating. Issues like divorced and remarried people, homosexual Catholics, and abortion, but Dr. Keating says these issues will be dealt with gradually.

"Americans tend to think that if you get a new guy in there… he just he reverses what the old guy did. That’s not how the Catholic Church works, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t change," he explains.

Jorge Bergolio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was the Pope’s name and title before being elected. He’s the first Latin American Pope, born to parents who emigrated from Italy. While in South America, he was a leader who could get things done.

"You know the reason he was elected pope was to clean up the bureaucracy in the Vatican, in particular, the financial," says Keating.

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has captured the attention of catholic and non-Catholic’s around the world. Being outspoken on issues like climate change, and embracing social media and Twitter, along with living a modest lifestyle and casting aside the luxurious life of Popes before him.

"Just because you are Pope doesn’t mean you live in a palace, which of course, he doesn’t. He lives in a hotel."

Dr. Keating is confident that Pope Francis will live up to his expectations, "He is transformative. He’s a person that realizes his time in the papacy is short."

ABC6 News will have continuing coverage of the Pope’s trip all weekend as John and Mike travel to Philadelphia to cover the Holy Father’s visit to the "City of Brotherly Love."

© WLNE-TV 2015