By Carrie Gress
NEW YORK, APRIL 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI hasn’t left the United States yet, but the positive effects from his five-day visit to the United States are already being seen, according to the pastor at Our Savior Parish in New York.
Father George Rutler told ZENIT that the numbers of people who came to confession were unusually long Saturday, with a number of people confessing who hadn’t been to confession in 16 or 17 years, along with a lot of young people.
New Yorkers will be saying goodbye this evening to Benedict XVI from the International John F. Kennedy Airport. Some 3,200 people are expected to be present at the departure ceremony, including 100 men in camouflage fatigues from the U.S. military.
His departure is scheduled for 8:30 local time.
The Pope will be welcomed by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, and will also be addressed by Vice President Richard Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney.
Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and representatives from the Knights of Columbus will also be present.
An ethnic theme has been set for departure. More than 1,500 individuals representing more than 20 ethnic apostolates of the Diocese of Brooklyn have been invited, including Filipinos, Poles, Brazilians, Nigerians, Croatians, Ghanaians and Vietnamese.
The program will include recitation of the rosary, said in 23 languages including Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Gaelic, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Romanian and Urdu.
Benedict XVI seems to have won over a lot of hearts since he arrived in the United States Tuesday night, according to those waiting to say goodbye to him.
Rosemary Yu, a lawyer in New York, who was at first reluctant to get involved in the crowds, told ZENIT, “I just couldn’t resist after watching the reception in DC.” The excitement, she added, has just been infectious.
Yu waited outside the cardinal’s residence in hopes that the Pope might come out and greet the crowds. She was not disappointed. Yu was able to shake the Pope’s hand and tell him that “millions of Chinese Catholics love him and are loyal to him.” She said he responded with, “I always do.”
Jeff Sullivan, also a New York lawyer, said, “What has been impressive to me is the reception he has gotten. I really can’t distinguish the sort of enthusiasm that people have had for him from the enthusiasm they have had for the previous Pope. That’s been very impressive and gratifying to me.”
“I also think,” Sullivan continued, “is that it is actually helpful and inspirational to hear a message that you have to listen to. Nobody is going to be won over by superficial, charismatic, easy accessibility with Pope Benedict because he’s an intellectual.
“And yet when you hear his message, what you see is that the message, as is often the case with the truth, while it may not be presented in the most shiny way, is even more convincing when you listen to it, although you have to process it through the filter of listening to a German intellectual.”
Briana Kahn, 8, and a member of the children’s choir of the Diocese of Brooklyn, said: “I’m glad I’m here. I’ve never done anything like this in my whole life.” When asked about the Holy Father, she said: “I have been watching him a lot on TV and learning a lot about him and religion. He is very holy and he has a connection to God. I think he is a very great man.”
John Paul Shimek, who was named after John Paul II, is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Of his experience, Shimek said: “It was a wonderful experience. I was at Catholic University of America on Thursday. When the Holy Father entered the room, as luck would have it, he made a beeline for me. It was the most awesome experience I’ve ever had in my life. I shook his hand and embraced him and we had a short exchange. He said the seminarians are very close to his heart, which as a seminarian, meant a lot to me.”
“My impressions, just looking at the whole trip, I’ve been very impressed by the depth of his messages. […]
“I was very touched by his speech Thursday to the Catholic educators. This seemed to be a place where he really shined, because this is a man that was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for so long and a theology professor.
“And then yesterday, the depth and length of his message struck me. I was with all the seminarians up in front. I think he was speaking to the youth of the Church and I think that is where the whole message ‘Christ Our Hope’ really came alive. Looking around at all the seminarians and young people that were there, you could really see hope, you could feel hope there.
“And then the message, and how he plugged into so many of the contemporary problems that we are facing, it was just something that really inspired me because his message was so relevant, it was contemporary, it was what we needed to hear. And the context, where we heard it surrounded by young seminarians and religious, was just a powerful experience.”
As for how the Pope’s visit has affected his view of his own vocation, Shimek said: “It has been like gasing up, like filing up at the faith-station. I feel like I can go back now and really look forward to the next couple of years of formation.”