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de Blasio, Dolan push for Pope Francis to visit Big Apple

Mayor Bill de Blasio visits Cardinal Timothy M.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visits Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at the cardinal's residence Manhattan. (Jan. 13, 2014) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cardinal Timothy Dolan said they would love to roll out the red carpet for Pope Francis and help spread his mission of fighting for the poor to New York City.

During their first meeting together Monday at the cardinal's residence, the mayor and the leader of the Archdiocese of New York said they discussed formally inviting Pope Francis for a Big Apple visit as soon as possible, among other topics. De Blasio, who isn't a practicing Catholic, said he is inspired by Francis' focus on fighting inequality.

"We have a common passion and a common wish: We hope that someday Pope Francis will visit our city and offer his extraordinary blessings for New York City," the mayor told reporters while standing with Dolan in front of a picture of the pontiff.

Dolan, who appeared very jovial and friendly with the progressive mayor, said he agreed with de Blasio about a papal visit, adding that it would be instrumental for their mutual goals for the city.

The cardinal said he and the mayor touched on a number of issues aside from the Francis invite during their meeting, including the rezoning of the area around St. Patrick's Cathedral.

"This will be a deep and constant relationship," Dolan said.

Political experts said the city would be a perfect destination for the new pope, who has made headlines for offering more liberal opinions on homosexuality, women's rights and atheists.

Plus, a visit from Pope Francis would excite New Yorkers of all backgrounds, experts said.

"No matter what your faith is, people are listening to him and seeing the work he does," said Brian Browne, the assistant vice president for government relations at St. John's University.

Political consultant George Arzt said Francis' and de Blasio's goals are very much in synch and a visit would help the mayor push his agenda.

"It's a message that goes across the religious world," said Arzt, who was the spokesman for the late Ed Koch.

In a broader sense, other religious groups have been pleased with de Blasio's outreach so far.

Daryl Johnson, of the Islamic activist group the Cordoba Initiative, said de Blasio has reached out to the city's Muslim population and been very attentive of their needs at City Hall.

"We happen to believe that Mayor de Blasio will be more committed [than the Bloomberg administration], and will demonstrate a more fervent commitment, because of his progressive platform and the more inclusive nature of his rhetoric," Johnson said.


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