New York answers to many names: The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, The Gateway to America and of course, the section of Manhattan known as the Great White Way.
No matter what you choose to call it, the former New Amsterdam is a marvelous place to spend time.
It’s fitting that Pope Benedict XVI chose to split his time between America’s capital and America’s largest city. He left Washington this morning, accomplishing much of what he set out to do.
Whether it was last night at dinner or this morning as I left the hotel – even at Reagan National Airport, there was a palatable energy most every direction you turned.
At the ballpark, he hit a home run. With the bishops he laid down the law.
Benedict charmed the president and England's prime minister. Members of Congress were in awe.
He encouraged educators. One told me this morning, “I remember every word and am ready to take this back to the schools.”
Thousands awaited him at every stop, cheering, laughing, praying and crying.
We know of these visits. We don’t know exactly what was said to the victims of sexual abuse by priests. Nor do we know why those specific victims were chosen from the thousands who were abused.
We can only hope his message of hope begins a chapter of true healing for those terribly treated by someone they trusted.
As I flew into New York this morning, I was struck by the power of the Statue of Liberty. There, near Ellis Island where so many immigrants first saw liberty’s light, the shining reminder of who we are, why we welcome and why we can’t do everything on our own. (I thought for a moment her crown was replaced with a miter – the sun must have gotten in my eyes.)
Here in New York, again, enthusiastic crowds. A powerful moment at the United Nations. And then, possibly an even more powerful moment awaits as Benedict makes his pilgrimage to Ground Zero.
I have been to that site a dozen times. The first, just three weeks post 9/11 when the ruins were still there. Dust was still in storefronts. People in the neighborhood wore masks to protect from the dust and asbestos. Pictures of the missing were placed on fences, in hope, some hope they might be found.
Benedict will see what I saw the last time I was at Ground Zero. The crater of our collective hearts. The empty space that once housed so much life and became that became, at the hands of evil, an incinerator for 3,000 people.
What will he be thinking? Only God knows. This Pope has lived eight decades. He knows the evils of World War II, the evils of dictator, the evils of renegade priests.
No, we don’t know what he’ll be thinking or what prayers he will utter. Yet I am confident there will be a message to remind us to never repay evil with evil.