On Thursday morning in Saint Cecilia’s Parish in East Harlem, Head of Catholic Charities New YorkMonsignor Kevin Sullivan outlined the plans of Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to New York City.
Besides addressing the United Nations General Assembly and holding a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial, the Pope will meet with and give a blessing to members of the immigrant and refugee community, which Sullivan hopes will initiate progress toward immigration policy reform.
Sullivan looks forward to a “conversation among people who have different opinions [about immigration policy reform,] but have it in a way that we can achieve a goal that we recognize as important not merely for immigrants but for the future of our country.”
Pope Francis will engage the neighborhood’s refugees and immigrants, most of whom benefit from Catholic Charities on Sept. 25, 2015 at Our Lady Queen of Angels school.
The visit is “wonderful because the Pope will highlight what [Catholic Charities] have achieved as a community in New York in welcoming people that in some parts of the world are not welcome,” Sullivan said.
The charity organization assists immigrants and refugees through after-school and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, partnership with local food banks, legal services, etc.
Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez believes that the Pope’s upcoming visit is special because of the chosen location. The East Harlem region is “a very low income immigrant community that has been that way for a long time but has always been a welcoming place for immigrants and a stepping stone for them to be able to achieve their dreams.”
“It’s very symbolic, I think, of the message that has spread about embracing and inclusion and making sure that as Catholics, we continue [to] the mission of helping one another and serving God in that way,” Rodriguez said.
In Europe and other parts of the world where a refugee and immigration crisis is growing, Pope Francis’ mission will put “faces” to this problem, Sullivan adds.
Martha Pastor, who first came to the United States from Mexico 18 years ago has faced the challenges of immigration, deportation, and transitioning in her return. She is “blessed and excited” to meet the Pope and for her daughter to have that opportunity as well when he visits her school.
The papal visit is “not really about Pope Francis,” Sullivan said. “It’s about the values and message that he has articulated…. every individual is made in the image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect.”