A Dominican and a Pakistani will be among the immigrant New Yorkers who meet and receive a special blessing from Pope Francis during his visit to the Big Apple later this month, Catholic Charities USA announced Thursday. Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, the head of Catholic Charities, said 150 immigrants have been selected for the blessings when Francis visits Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem Sept. 25, WCBS-AM, New York, reported.
Children who came to the U.S. fleeing violence in their Central American homelands will be among the lucky 150. Amid a debate about immigration policies in the U.S., the pope’s actions will likely spread the message of compassion for immigrants struggling to build new lives and provide for their families in a foreign land, the Catholic Charities rep said.
“The fabric of New York has been made stronger because those who have been on the margins — the poorest, the most vulnerable — have been given a decent meal, provided shelter, children have been nurtured and protected,” Sullivan told reporters. “My hope is that we will renew the conversation so that those who come here can be treated with dignity and respect.”
Kimberly Ramirez, 18, the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, said it was “really amazing” the pope decided to offer the blessing to residents of East Harlem, a diverse neighborhood in upper Manhattan. “That’s very noble of him, to take time out of his busy agenda to come meet with people, to give them hope that they mean something, that they’re important,” she told CBS.
Shehid Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan, was also among those chosen to meet the Francis. “Being a Muslim, I think that this will be a huge experience for me,” he said.
In addition to his Harlem visit, the pontiff is scheduled the same day to travel through part of New York’s famed Central Park before holding a mass service in the Madison Square Garden arena. He is also scheduled to attend a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, give a speech to the United Nations General Assembly and visit the National Sept. 11 Memorial.