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NYC lines up for Francis, the pope who shut down 5th Avenue

September 24, 2015 at 6:35 PM EDT
After giving a speech to a joint session of Congress and visiting the poor in the nation’s capital, Pope Francis flew on to New York, where he’ll address the United Nations General Assembly, among other appearances. Hari Sreenivasan joins Gwen Ifill from outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a preview.
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GWEN IFILL: And now we turn to the next leg of the pope’s trip, and the anticipation and security surrounding his time in New York City.

He landed late this afternoon at Kennedy International Airport, where a crowd greeted him. He took a helicopter to Wall Street, and then headed toward St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Hari Sreenivasan was one of those outside when I spoke to him a short time ago.

Hari, I see you’re front and center there in from the of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Tell me, what’s the security like in the city? The city shuts down when anybody comes to town, but, with the pope, it must be something.

HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s right. Imagine a Super Bowl, multiply that by four, and then put it in downtown Manhattan for a period of two-and-a-half days or so.

I mean, this area up and down Fifth Avenue — if anybody has been to New York, they have probably been to Rockefeller Center — there is no traffic on here. They have closed it for several blocks in either direction from St. Patrick’s. There’s a place where he’s going to rest overnight. That has security around it.

There’s obviously Central Park that is preparing. And then, tomorrow, he has got four different places that he’s going to in the city as soon as he wakes up. It’s kind of a nonstop schedule for him. And everywhere he goes, there has to be this level of security that goes with him, ahead of him.

GWEN IFILL: We saw a little bit of this here in Washington, but it’s not like what you are going to see there. So, give us a thumbnail sketch of his schedule, where he’s expected to go and be.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

For a man his age, it’s pretty impressive. After he does vespers tonight, which is not mass, but a church service tonight with clergy inside here, then he goes to rest tonight. Tomorrow morning, as soon as he wakes up, he goes to — today, he was trying to address the nation of the United States through its representative. Tomorrow, he tries to address the entire world at the U.N. And after that, he goes to the 9/11 Memorial, where he has an opportunity to pray and lead people in a — kind of a multifaith service, if you will.

From there, he goes to a school in Harlem. And then he conducts a very small mass at Madison Square Garden. So, four areas of the city that have to prepare for him, and, you know, they are actually encouraging people in New York, if you can telecommute tomorrow, do so.

GWEN IFILL: They encouraged people about that here in Washington as well, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, except with one extra detail. I gather there are people actually scalping free tickets to see the pope?

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes. That’s right. I don’t think the Pope or the cardinals or anyone that cares about this is very happy about this, but, yes, there were free tickets that were handed out for the event that he’s going to have in Central Park.

And, sure enough, on eBay and on Craigslist, you can start to see these tickets pop up for hundreds of dollars. You can’t prevent the sale from happening, but you can certainly strongly discourage it.

GWEN IFILL: And, finally, Hari, that crowd that we’re seeing behind you, how long would you say they have all been there waiting for this moment?

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the press was corralled together in these — sort of higher-security area for several hours. And the people on either side of me in front of the church have been here several hours as well.

But what you can’t see is the people that are up and down Fifth Avenue, on both sides, just waiting for a glimpse of the Popemobile. Perhaps he’s going to wave. Perhaps he goes out and takes a selfie with them. I don’t know. But the people here are just as excited as they were in D.C.

GWEN IFILL: Well, it’s amazing to watch, from city to city to city, this thing unfold.

Hari Sreenivasan, thanks a lot.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Thank you, Gwen.

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