Our Lady Queen of Angels in East Harlem Will Speak to Pope 'Unscripted'

Inside Look at Catholic School Francis Visits Tomorrow; Little Ones Ready to Ask Him How He Manages to Do All He Does

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Six children will speak with Pope Francis tomorrow and they can’t wait!

After a full morning of addressing the United Nations General Assembly and having an interreligious service at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Pope Francis will go visit Our Lady Queen of Angels in East Harlem at 4 p.m., before his procession through Central Park on his way to presiding over Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Today, ZENIT visited the school, which was in the midst of final preparations. Its principal, Joanne Walsh, shared how it is crunch time, but how thrilled all the students, faculty and community are that Pope Francis will be with them tomorrow.

Six children from third and fourth grades who will greet Pope Francis tomorrow told ZENIT how much they love Pope Francis. Responding to why, one noted it was because, “He is so humble,” another because, “He loves everybody,” and another because, “He helps the poor.”

When asked what they were feeling now that they are so close to meeting the Pope, they said they cannot wait and may be too excited to sleep.

Then one of the little boys turned his head away and said, “No, I’ll still be able to sleep.”

The principal urged the little ones to share for what they were going to ask the Holy Father to pray. They replied, telling us their individual intentions:  “for everybody,” “for the earth,” “for the poor and sick,” “for my mom,” “for my grandma, “for my grandpa.”

Tomorrow, during his Apostolic visit to the school, the Holy Father will be presented with a Spiritual Bouquet, in which students placed cards pledging acts of kindness and good will in their communities. The spiritual bouquet will be presented to Pope Francis  by the students and includes a collection of prayers accompanied by photographs of students and their artwork, bound in a hard cover book.

Also during the encounter, Francis will bless rosary beads and prayer cards created specifically to commemorate his trip to the United States. The rosaries feature the pectoral cross Pope Francis wears and will be framed and displayed in all of the archdiocesan schools.

ZENIT also spoke to Dr. Timothy McNiff, Superintendent of the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools, who said, “We are so delighted Pope Francis’ is taking time out of his busy itinerary to visit our inner city school.”

He stated two reasons why the Pontiff is visiting: one, it is close to the route Francis will be taking as he tours New York; two, it is an excellent Catholic school. 

“What the Pope will find,” he said, ” are children that are below the poverty line, children that are immigrants, and how happy they are and how well they are progressing in their studies and spiritual development.”

He added, “We tried to script some things that these little third and fourth graders should say to the Pope and then we realized: Just get out of the way. The spontaneity that they will have with the Pope will be the best conversation they could have. So genuine.”

When asked if the children said anything that struck him, the superintendent said: “One said, ‘I am going to ask him how he can do all his work with one lung.’ Another expressed, ‘For doing this, I am going to be the hero in my neighborhood.'”

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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