Pope Francis was treated to a rock-star welcome in New York Thursday as he embarked on the second leg of his U.S. tour after addressing Congress and electrifying crowds in Washington.
He will spend a hectic 36 hours in the largest U.S. city, its business capital and a melting pot of immigrants home to 8.4 million people, all under security lockdown for his visit.
Francis flew into John F. Kennedy International Airport on an American Airlines Boeing 777, given the call sign Shepherd One, where he shook hands with clergy and delighted members of a small crowd.
A band played an excerpt of Frank Sinatra’s hit “New York, New York” as the crowd waved Vatican flags and shouted “welcome to New York” before he was escorted away to a waiting helicopter.
After a chopper flight to Manhattan and motorcade ride, the pope is scheduled to lead evening prayers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for around 2,500 worshippers, most of them clergy.
On Friday, the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics will address the United Nations before leading an inter-faith service at the 9/11 Memorial and visiting a Catholic school in Harlem.
Later, he will parade past 80,000 cheering faithful in Central Park before celebrating mass at Madison Square Garden, where 20,000 people are expected to attend.
The 78-year-old Argentine pontiff on Thursday became the first head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
He used the speech to urge U.S. lawmakers, riven by bitter disunity, to do more to help the poor, suffering migrants around the world, fight climate change and abolish capital punishment.
Dressed in flowing white vestments, he was greeted by applause and a standing ovation from those assembled, including Joe Biden, the first Catholic U.S. vice president.