Pope Paul VI makes a special appeal for world peace in 1965 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. CNS photo/Yutaka Nagata, UN

The Register Archives: Pope takes a quick bite out of Big Apple

  • September 28, 2018

Pope Paul VI made papal history on Oct. 4, 1965, becoming the first pontiff to ever leave Europe and the first to leave Italy since 1809. His destination (he’s also the first to travel by plane) was New York City, where he spent a grand total of 14 hours on the ground. He packed a lot into the quick trip, including a meeting with President Lyndon Johnson and a speech to the United Nations. Here’s a report in the Oct. 9, 1965 issue of The Register on part of Pope Paul’s historic visit.

NEW YORK – In one of the greatest welcomes ever seen in New York’s history, Pope Paul VI drove through streets jammed with school children and hundreds of thousands more cheering and flag-waving persons on the 24-mile route from Kennedy Airport to the residence of Francis Cardinal Spellman.

More than 18,000 policemen were on duty to contain the enthusiastic crowds and back up the most massive security effort. More than a million Catholic school children were given a holiday to welcome the pontiif.

More than 90,000 persons of all faiths crowded Yankee Stadium when the Pope offered Mass for the peace of the world on an altar near home plate, under the shelter of a gold canvas canopy. The Mass was attended by leading Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish leaders.

Shortly before the Mass, the Pope met briefly at the Church of the Holy Family, near the United Nations, with smaller groups of Protestants and Jews.

At Yankee Stadium, Pinkerton guards and priests were assigned to every gate. The use of priests, according to Msgr. Thomas McGovern of the archdiocesan Chancery office, was to “maintain the decorum of the occasion.”

According to officials at the New York Chancery, participation by non-Catholics in the Mass was a personal desire of Pope Paul, who asked that Protestants, Orthodox and Jews be given special consideration.

The “universal aspects” of the stadium Mass was evident in the fact that the prayer of the faithful following the Creed was recited in the five official languages of the United Nations — English, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. All were requested to recite the Lord’s Prayer in their own language. During the Mass, the Pope gave communion to six boys and six girls chosen from families of UN delegates from the six continents.

Canada’s Minister of External Affairs and delegation chief Paul Martin observed that “in the light of the papal visit, human rights would receive greater attention.”

“Human rights, a vital part of the UN Charter, must now move to the centre of attention on the world organization’s stage of public debate,” he said. “Canadians attach particular importance to the maintenance and extension of individual rights, to the protection of the institutions of family and faith, and to the removal of all forms of discrimination based on race, colour, sex or religion.”

The UN role in the human rights field, in Mr. Martin’s view, would be enhanced by appointing a High Commissioner for Human Rights, as proposed by Costa Rica. “Human rights are of universal significance; their violation must be of universal concern.”

Uruguay’s Foreign Minister and delegation head, Luis Vidal Zaglio, praised the “new world-wide ecumenical significance of the United Nations in the light of the papal visit. ... Pope Paul VI, like his predecessor Pope John XXIII, is a symbol at peace.”

He expressed hope that the words of the pontiff before the UN Assembly “will be taken as a truly significant message that will renew the hope of all inhabitants of this Earth for a better future.”

(To explore more from The Catholic Register Archive, go to catholicregister.org/archive)

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