Five-year-old’s meeting with pope was planned

WASHINGTON — Sophie Cruz’s encounter with the pope during a parade in Washington this week looked to be one of those spontaneous, once-in-a-lifetime-moments Francis has become known for.

But for 5-year-old Sophie, the chance to wrap her arm around the pope’s neck as he offered a hug, kiss and a blessing unfolded as perfectly as it was scripted by members of a coalition of Los Angeles-based immigration rights groups. For nearly a year, the group had been preparing the young girl from suburban Los Angeles to make a dash for the popemobile to deliver a message about the plight of immigrant parents living in the country illegally.

They had even pulled off a similar public-relations coup a year ago in Rome with a 10-year-old girl meeting the pope.

“We planned to do this from the moment we learned he was coming to the States,” said Juan Jose Gutierrez of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition. “We have been working for a while now trying to sensitize the American public that dealing with immigration is not just dealing with the people who came in without proper documents but that we also have … countless children whose parents are undocumented.”

Gutierrez said the group decided to use the children of immigrants to represent their push for an immigration overhaul to the pope, a staunch supporter of migrants. “We have been looking for children to make the case that we as adults have been making for years,” he said.

If Sophie had been unsuccessful in Washington attracting the pope’s attention, Gutierrez said, she would have traveled with the group to New York and then Philadelphia to try again.

Though initially hesitant as security officials approached along the parade route, Sophie refused to leave the pope’s side Wednesday until a bodyguard took a handwritten letter and a T-shirt.

Performers welcome pope with concert at Garden

NEW YORK — Jennifer Hudson, Gloria Estafan, Harry Connick Jr. and other entertainers performed for a jubilant crowd Friday at a concert to welcome Pope Francis on his first visit to the United States and celebrate his message of faith and goodwill.

The event, called “A Journey in Faith,” stretched for two hours at Madison Square Garden with performers standing on a white elevated stage that would soon transform into the altar from which the pope would celebrate Mass.

Hudson, the Academy Award and Grammy Award-winning singer, sang “Hallelujah” backed by an orchestra, and drew roars from the crowd. Estafan sang “Mas Alla,” Connick sang “How Great Thou Art” and several Broadway actors performed. The audience included dignitaries, members of religious orders and everyday Catholics who won tickets through their local parishes.

Actor Martin Sheen hosted the ceremony, produced by the Archdiocese of New York and featuring a performance by a Catholic choir from the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem. Stephen Colbert made a video appearance, welcoming to the arena “Catholics and the non-Catholics who arrived really early for a Knicks game.” He apologized for not being at the Mass in person, but said he had promised CBS that he would “do (his) new talk show every night.”

Congressman lifts pope’s water glass for DIY blessing

PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis wasn’t the only person to drink from the glass of water he used during his speech to Congress. An enterprising Democratic congressman from Philadelphia also took a sip.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, a Roman Catholic, told the Philadelphia Daily News that as the pope left the chamber Thursday, the lawmaker headed to the lectern to grab Francis’ drinking glass.

Brady said he took it to his office and had a drink. So did his wife, Debra, and two staffers, he said.

“How many people do you know that drank out of the same glass as the pope?” Brady asked.

The congressman said he also invited fellow Catholic and Democrat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania into his office. Casey, his wife and his mother dipped their fingers into the water, Brady said.

Brady said he used a bottle to save the rest for his four grandchildren and his great-granddaughter, saying he would bless them with it.

filed under: