XIX to MSG for Papal Mass

Father Joseph Marina. Courtesy Church of St. Francis Xavier.
Father Joseph Marina. Courtesy Church of St. Francis Xavier.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | The Pope is the hottest ticket in town.

For two days — Sept. 24 and 25 — Pope Francis will make a historic visit to New York City. In the two events open to the public and Catholic parishioners, tickets have been in high demand.

On Fri., Sept. 25, between around 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., there will be a motorcade through Central Park. According to the mayor’s office, 93,143 New Yorkers entered the lottery to see Pope Francis’ procession. The lottery was open to New York state residents, and a total of 80,000 New Yorkers will get their chance to see the Pope, according to the mayor’s office.

“The overwhelming response we received from New Yorkers throughout the state made clear: Pope Francis is one of the world’s most important voices, and his historic visit to New York City will be an unforgettable experience,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release.

After Central Park, tickets for the Pope’s second event, a Mass at Madison Square Garden at 6 p.m., were also highly sought after.

In Chelsea, at the Church of St. Francis Xavier at 55 W. 15th St. (btw. Fifth & Sixth Aves.), 19 tickets were allotted for the church’s parishioners, Father Joseph Marina noted in a phone interview. 

“We’ve been focusing on the Papal Mass in Madison Square Garden on Friday, the 25th,” he said. “Every parish in the Archdiocese of New York was given an allotment of tickets for the Mass, and that number is different for each parish, based on the size of their registration.”

Fr. Marina said there were so many requests for those 19 tickets that the only fair way to distribute them was through a lottery.

“We made the phone calls to those who won, and without exception, everyone was just ecstatic. Some were even screaming so loudly we had to hold the phone away from our ears,” he said with a laugh. “So we’re all looking forward to Friday.”

The Church of St. Francis Xavier has three full-time priests, he said, and they, like the other priests in the Archdiocese, were invited to celebrate the Mass with Pope Francis.

The priests will be together in their own section at Madison Square Garden, which can hold over 19,000 people. These tickets were separate from those allocated to the parishioners and other Catholic organizations, nonprofits and schools, said Fr. Marina.

This means that the priests will concelebrate the Mass with the Pope.

“So when a priest celebrates the Mass, he’s usually by himself,” Fr. Marina explained. “But sometimes he’s joined by other priests. Then he would still be referred to as celebrating the Mass, and the other priests who joined him would be concelebrating. That’s when they formally participate in the Eucharistic prayers of the Mass.

“There will be hundreds of priests concelebrating the Mass with the Pope,” he added, including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.

The popular Pope Francis has a full schedule during his visit, according to popefrancisvisit.com. On Thursday, he will pray at the evening prayers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown.

The next morning at 8:30 a.m., he will address the United Nations General Assembly. Then Pope Francis will visit the 9/11 Memorial, where he will likely pray, according to the website.

He will then go to Our Lady Queen of Angels, an elementary school in East Harlem, before heading to Central Park for the procession.

For Fr. Marina and his parishioners, this is “obviously a very exciting time. After really capturing the hearts of the world by his great pastoral style that he’s been demonstrating in so many ways since he was elected. The fact that the Holy Father is coming to the United States, and especially to New York, brings it home to us. It brings him local. We’re hoping to get as close a look at him as we can.”