Pope Francis may ride through a portion of Central Park in his open-air Popemobile during his visit next month to New York City -- meeting a papal request to see as many people as possible, church and city officials said Thursday.
A motorcade in the famed, 843-acre park "is a good idea to allow more New Yorkers to participate in the pope's visit," said Joseph Zwilling, the Archdiocese of New York's communications director.
The event likely would be held Sept. 25, Zwilling said -- a Friday that is the pope's only full day in the city.
A decision on whether the park motorcade is doable should be made "in a few short days," as security agencies, including the New York Police Department, and the city's Department of Parks and Recreation continue to have "serious" discussions, he said.
Francis' visit to the United States begins with his arrival in Washington, D.C., from Cuba on the afternoon of Sept. 22. He is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on Sept. 23. The next day -- Sept. 24 -- he addresses a joint session of Congress, among other events, and departs for New York, arriving at Kennedy International Airport at 5 p.m.
The pope is slated to go from the airport to a 6:45 p.m. evening prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and bishops from the metropolitan area.
A motorcade that day along a portion of Fifth Avenue, near the cathedral, also is being discussed among officials, Zwilling said.
The 78-year-old pontiff's sole full day in New York is Sept. 25, and the schedule already is packed with activity.
Francis is scheduled to begin the day with an 8:30 a.m. address to the United Nations General Assembly and then travel to the World Trade Center for an 11:30 a.m. multi-religious service at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
In the afternoon, at 4 p.m., he is to visit with third- and fourth-graders from several Catholic elementary schools and with immigrant families and workers at Our Lady Queens of Angels School in East Harlem.
Finishing out the day is a 6 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Garden, with tickets being disbursed from the archdiocese to its own parishes and to other dioceses in the area.
The Central Park motorcade, if it occurs, probably would be sandwiched between his visit to the World Trade Center and the school on East 112th Street in East Harlem.
The pope is scheduled to leave New York before 9 a.m. on Sept. 26, flying to Philadelphia for the final days of the World Meeting of Families Congress, which is expected to draw as many as 15,000 delegates from 150 countries.
There, on Sept. 27, the final day of his U.S. tour, Francis is to officiate at a huge outdoor Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which starts at 4 p.m. He departs for Rome that evening.