April 18, 2019

Pope John Paul II visits Boston

Pope John Paul visited the United States of America on October 1st-8, 1979 - the first visit of the Pope to America. His Apostolic Journey began in Boston.

Pope Monument1979
A monument of Pope visit is near the location of where the Pope Spoke in 1979.

Ten Things I learned about the Pope's Visit to Boston

In July 1976, Cardinal Wojtyła spent the summer traveling North America giving speeches - including one at Harvard University. In 1979, he was elected Pope and took the name Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul left Ireland the morning of October 1st, and landed in Boston and kiss the American soil at 3:02 pm. Was greeted by Mrs. Rosalyns Carter along with other distinguish Massachusetts politicians.

It took 55-minutes to get from Logan Airport to Dorchester - as the motor cage traveled slowly as people wanted to see the Pope.

He said his first Mass in the United States at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross with 2,000 local priests in attendance.

Later that day, Pope John Paul II celebrated his first North America outdoor Mass at the Boston Public Commons - an estimated 400,000 people attended the service.

The Mass was to start at 5:30 pm, but he was about 20 minutes late

The service lasted an hour and a half as the crowd stood during a heavy rainstorm. His homily lasted 37-minutes.

He gave communion to 160 individuals - while 300 priests served communion to the crowd.

After saying the Mass, he left to spend the night at the Cardinal Medeiros home in Brighton.

You can read all the speeches that he gave in American on the Vatican website.

Monument Installation

A Monument was proposed to the City of Boston Park and Recreation Commission on February 12, 1981 (5-Months after the Pope visit) The initial request was turned down because they didn't have the correct approval from the Art Commission and Friends of the Public Garden.

Once the monument team got the correct approval, they met with the City of Boston Park and Recreation Commission again and received approval on May 27, 1981.

The monument was installed near the location of the altar during the Mass.

The monument was paid for by funds raised by the Order of the Alhambra.

Large Crowds

The fact that 400,000 people attended the Mass at the Boston Public Gardens is impressive. Consider the following:

  • Weather Factors: The heavy rainstorm certainly was a reason for people to avoid outdoor service. (In fact, some people had to seek shelter because of the lightning storms.)
  • Day of the Event: October 1st, 1979, was a Monday - people would have likely taken the day off - even for a 5:30 service.
  • Getting to Boston: Public Transportation today is much better than it was in 1979. Today the MBTA is able to handle the 3.2 million fans turning out for the 2004 Rolling Rally to celebrate the 2004 Red Sox. Most people would have driven into the city - I am sure the traffic was busy with the evening commute. (No Red Sox game as they failed to make the playoffs)

Interesting Discovery

The Boston Public Library has a collection of documents from the Pope's visit. These are on reserved and not for checking out of the library.

When I went to the library earlier this week, I was told that the documents have gone missing. The librarian informed me that this occasionally happens when people misplace certain documents.

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