(Bloomberg) — After urging Washington lawmakers to do more to overcome poverty, Pope Francis arrived at the seat of capitalism to a school band playing the theme song from the Martin Scorsese movie “New York, New York.”
Dignitaries greeted the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics at John F. Kennedy International Airport before the pope flew by helicopter to Manhattan, where he led evening prayers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
A somber Francis began his address to members of the clergy by expressing his solidarity over the “tragedy” near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, a reference to the crushing of more than 700 people, the worst such disaster at the Hajj pilgrimage in a quarter century.
He drew long applause when he expressed “my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States.” He added: “What would the Church be without you?” On Friday, he’s to speak to the United Nations General Assembly.
During the service, Francis made a veiled reference to the sex-abuse scandals that so damaged the church’s standing in the U.S. He told members of the clergy he knew they had “suffered greatly in the not too distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members.”