Bookmark and Share

John Paul II's 1st Apostolic Journey to the USA

1st - 7th October 1979

Pope St John Paul II's first pilgrimage to the United States was on his third apostolic voyage & his schedule was remarkable (superman-like, as you'll see below!).

JPII landed in Boston on the Feast of St Therese of Lisieux (having flown in from Ireland) where, after the Welcome ceremony, he gave an address in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross before celebrating Mass on Boston Common.

His first stop on Day 2, October 2, was to the United Nations before speaking to the people of New York at St. Patrick's Cathedral, then to African Americans & then to the Spanish community of South Bronx; the day ended with Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York.

Day 3 began with Morning Prayer at St Patrick's Cathedral, followed by a meeting with Students in Madison Square Garden, a speech at Battery Park and then to the faithful in the Shea Stadium. JPII then traveled to Philadelphia where he visited the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, celebrated Mass at the Logan Circle and spoke with the seminarians of Philadelphia.

1st stop on Day 4 (Feast of St Francis) was to the tomb of St John Neumann, before speaking to the Spanish community in Philadelphia & visiting the Ukrainian Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Blessed John Paul II celebrated Mass with the American Priests in Philadelphia, spoke with the Community of St Patrick in Des Moines & then celebrated Mass again, this time at the Living History Farms in Des Moines. Pilgriming on to Chicago, JPII visited Holy Name Cathedral before speaking with Religious men.

Day 5 preceded like this: a Visit to the Church of the Divine Providence in Chicago followed by Mass for the Polish Community, Greetings to the sick in the Seminary of Quigley South and to the students of the Minor Seminary; Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America followed by Mass at the Grant Park and words to the Symphony Orchestra of Chicago.

JPII traveled to Washington on Day 6 where, after the Welcome ceremony, he celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew. He then had a meeting with and farewell address to President Carter, followed by a visit to the Organization of American States & an address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington.

On his last day, in Washington, Blessed Pope John Paul met with Students of the Catholic University, visited & prayed at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, spoke to Religious Women, at the Catholic University, at an Ecumenical meeting of prayer, to the operators of social communications and to the Knights of Columbus. He celebrated Mass at the Capitol Mall before departing from the United States.

St John Paul II's Prayer to Mary
at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Washington - Sunday, 7 October 1979 - in English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"This Shrine speaks to us with the voice of all America, with the voice of all the sons and daughters of America, who have come here from the various countries of the Old World. When they came, they brought with them in their hearts the same love for the Mother of God that was a characteristic of their ancestors and of themselves in their native lands. These people, speaking different languages, coming from different backgrounds of history and tradition in their own countries, came together around the heart of a Mother whom they all had in common. While their faith in Christ made all of them aware of being the one People of God, this awareness became all the more vivid through the presence of the Mother in the work of Christ and the Church.

Today, as I thank you, Mother, for this presence of yours in the midst of the men and women of this land — a presence which has lasted 200 years — giving a new form to their social and civic lives in the United States, I commend them all to your Immaculate Heart.

With gratitude and joy I recall that you have been honored as Patroness of the United States, under the title of your Immaculate Conception, since the days of the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1846.

I commend to you, Mother of Christ, and I entrust to you the Catholic Church: the Bishops, priests, deacons, individual religious and religious institutes, the seminarians, vocations, and the apostolate of the laity in its various aspects.

In a special way, I entrust to you the well-being of the Christian families of this country, the innocence of children, the future of the young, the vocation of single men and women. I ask you to communicate to all the women of the United States a deep sharing in the joy that you experienced in your closeness to Jesus Christ, your Son. I ask you to preserve all of them in freedom from sin and evil, like the freedom which was yours in a unique way from that moment of supreme liberation in your Immaculate Conception.

I entrust to you the great work of ecumenism here, in this land, in which those who confess Christ belong to different Churches and communions. I do this in order that the words of Christ's prayer may be fulfilled: "That they may be one". I entrust to you the consciences of men and women and the voice of public opinion, in order that they may not be opposed to the law of God but follow it as the fount of truth and good.

I add to this, Mother, the great cause of justice and peace in the modern world, in order that the force and energy of love may prevail over hatred and destructiveness, and in order that the children of light may not lack concern for the welfare of the whole human family.

Mother, I commend and entrust to you all that goes to make up earthly progress, asking that it should not be onesided, but that it should create conditions for the full spiritual advancement of individuals, families, communities and nations. I commend to you the poor, the suffering, the sick and the handicapped, the aging and the dying. I ask you to reconcile those in sin, to heal those in pain, and to uplift those who have lost their hope and joy. Show to those who struggle in doubt the light of Christ your Son.

Bishops of the Church in the United States have chosen your Immaculate Conception as the mystery to hold the patronage over the people of God in this land. May the hope contained in this mystery overcome sin and be shared by all the sons and daughters of America, and also by the whole human family. At a time when the struggle between good and evil, between evangelical love and the prince of darkness and father of lies is growing more acute, may the light of your Immaculate Conception show to all the way to grace and to salvation. Amen."

Pope St John Paul II's words at the Welcome Ceremony in Boston
Logan Airport, Feast of St Therese of Lisieux, Monday 1 October 1979 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Praised be Jesus Christ!

It is a great joy for me to be in the United States of America, to begin my pastoral visit to the Catholic Church in this land, and at the same time to greet all the American people, of every race, color and creed.

I am grateful for the cordial welcome given me on behalf of President Carter, whom I thank most sincerely for his invitation to the United States. I am looking forward to meeting the President after my visit to the United Nations.

My thanks go also to the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, who in this historic city offers me the first hospitality of this country. I am grateful to the Episcopal Conference and to all the individual Bishops who have so kindly asked me to come. My only regret is that I cannot accept all the invitations extended to me by religious and civil offiсials, by individuals, families and groups.

From so many quarters—Catholics, Protestants and Jews—America has opened her heart to me. And on my part I come to you—America—with sentiments of friendship, reverence and esteem. I come as one who already knows you and loves you, as one who wishes you to fulfill completely your noble destiny of service to the world. Once again I can now admire firsthand the beauty of this vast land stretching between two oceans; once again I am experiencing the warm hospitality of the American people.

Although it is not possible for me to enter into every home, to greet personally every man and woman, to caress every child in whose eyes is reflected the innocence of love—still, I feel close to all of you, and you are all in my prayers.

Permit me to express my sentiments in the lyrics of your own song: "America ! America ! God shed his grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea".

And may the peace of the Lord be with you always—America!"

St John Paul II's address at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Boston, Feast of St Therese of Lisieux, Monday 1 October 1979 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Cardinal Medeiros, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
On the first day of my pastoral visit to the United States of America, it is a great joy for me to come to this City of Boston, and in this Cathedral, and later tonight on the Common, to be able to meet with the Catholic community. It is the first time in history that a Successor of Peter is received in your midst. On this wonderful occasion I wish to render homage to the Most Holy Trinity, in whose name I have come. And I make my own the greeting of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians : "To you who have been consecrated in Christ Jesus and called to be a holy people, and to all those who, wherever they may be, call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 1:2.3).

My cordial thanks go to you, Cardinal Medeiros, Archbishop of Boston, for your welcome today. In your Cathedral Church, I am happy to renew to you the expression of my deep esteem and friendship. Warm greetings also to the Auxiliary Bishops and to all the clergy, both diocesan and religious: you who are my brother priests in virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Through your priesthood, you are also God's gift to the Christian community. Because you are servants of the Gospel, you will always be close to the people and their problems. Because you share in the Priesthood of Christ, your presence in the world shall always be marked by Christ's zeal, for he set you apart so that you might build up his Body, the Church (cf. Eph 4 :12).

I wish to extend a special blessing to you religious, both Religious Brothers and Sisters, who have consecrated your lives to Jesus Christ. May you always find joy in his love. And to all of you, the laity of this Diocese, who are united with the Cardinal and the clergy in a common mission, I open my heart in love and trust. You are the workers for evangelization in the realities of daily life, and you give witness to the love of Christ in the service that you give to all your fellow men and women, beginning with your own families.

To all I want to say how happy I am to be in your midst. I pray for each one of you, asking you to remain always united in Jesus Christ and his Church, so that together we may "display to the world our unity in proclaiming the mystery of Christ, in revealing the divine dimension and also the human dimension of the Redemption, and in struggling with unwearying perseverance for the dignity that each human being has reached and can continually reach in Christ" (Redemptor Hominis, 11). May this Cathedral, dedicated to the Holy Cross of Jesus, always be a reminder of our calling to greatness, for through the mystery of the Incarnation and of the redeeming Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross we share in "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3 :8).

From this Cathedral I send my greeting to all the people of this City of Boston : to those in particular who are, in one way or another, burdened by suffering; to the sick and the bedridden; to those whom society seems to have left by the wayside, and those who have lost faith in God and in their fellow human beings. To all I have come with a message of hope and peace—the hope and peace of Jesus Christ, for whom every human being is of immense value and dignity, and in whom are found all the treasures of justice and love.

In the City of Boston I am greeting a community that through the many upheavals of history has always been able to change and yet to remain true to itself—a community where people of all backgrounds, creeds, races and convictions have provided workable solutions to problems and have created a home where all people can be respected in their human dignity. For the honor of all the citizens of Boston, who have inherited a tradition of fraternal love and concern, may I recall what one of the founders of this city told his fellow-settlers as they were aboard ship en route to their new home in America: "We must love one another with a pure heart fervently, we must bear one another's burdens". These simple words explain so much of the meaning of life—our life as brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ.

May God's peace descend on this City of Boston, and bring joy to every conscience and joy to every heart!"

St John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass on Boston Common
Boston, Feast of St Therese of Lisieux, Monday 1 October 1979 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters, dear young people of America,
1. Earlier today, I set foot on the soil of the United States of America. In the name of Christ I begin a pastoral journey that will take me to several of your cities. At the beginning of this year, I had the occasion to greet this continent and its people from a place where Christopher Columbus landed; today I stand at this gateway to the United States, and again I greet all of America. For its people, wherever they are, have a special place in the love of the Pope.

I come to the United States of America as Successor of Peter and as a pilgrim of faith. It gives me great joy to be able to make this visit. And so, my esteem and affection go out to all the people of this land. I greet all Americans without distinction; I want to meet you and tell you all—men and women of all creeds and ethnic origins, children and youth, fathers and mothers, the sick and the elderly—that God loves you, that he has given you a dignity as human beings that is beyond compare. I want to tell everyone that the Pope is your friend and a servant of your humanity. On this first day of my visit, I wish to express my esteem and love for America itself, for the experience that began two centuries ago and that carries the name "United States of America" ; for the past achievements of this land and for its dedication to a more just and human future; for the generosity with which this country has offered shelter, freedom and a chance for betterment to all who have come to its shores ; and for the human solidarity that impels you to collaborate with all other nations so that freedom may be safeguarded and full human advancement made possible. I greet you, America the beautiful!

2. I am here because I wanted to respond to the invitation which the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization first addressed to me. Tomorrow I shall have the honor, as guest of the United Nations, to go to this supreme international forum of nations, and to deliver an address to the General Assembly: to make a plea to the whole world for justice and peace—a plea in defense of the unique dignity of every human being. I feel highly honored by the invitation of the United Nations Secretary-General. At the same time I am conscious of the greatness and importance of the challenge that this invitation brings with it. I have been convinced from the very first that this invitation by the United Nations should be accepted by me as Bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church of Christ. And so, I express my deep gratitude also to the Hierarchy of the Church in the United States, who joined in the initiative of the United Nations. I have received many invitations from individual dioceses, and from different regions of this country, as well as from Canada. I deeply regret that I am unable to accept all the invitations ; I would willingly make a pastoral visit everywhere, if it were possible. My pilgrimage to Ireland on the occasion of the centenary of the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock constituted a fitting introduction to my visit with you. I sincerely hope that my whole visit in the United States will be seen in the light of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

And tonight I am deeply pleased to be with you on Boston Common. In you I greet the City of Boston and all its people, as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and all its civil authorities. With special warmth, I greet here Cardinal Medeiros and the whole Archdiocese of Boston. A special remembrance links me with the City, for three years ago, at the invitation of its Divinity School, I had the opportunity to speak at the University of Harvard. As I recall this memorable event, I wish to express once again my gratitude to the authorities of Harvard and to the Dean of the Divinity School for that exceptionally valuable opportunity.

3. During my first visit in the United States as Pope, on the eve of my visit to the United Nations Organization, I now wish to speak a special word to the young people that are gathered here.

Tonight, in a very special way, I hold out my hands to the youth of America. In Mexico City and Guadalajara I met the youth of Latin America. In Warsaw and Cracow I met the youth of Poland. In Rome I meet frequently groups of young people from Italy and from all over the world. Yesterday I met the youth of Ireland in Galway. And now with great joy I meet you. For me, each one of these meetings is a new discovery. Again and again I find in young people the joy and enthusiasm of life, a searching for truth and for the deeper meaning of the existence that unfolds before them in all its attraction and potential.

4. Tonight, I want to repeat what I keep telling youth : you are the future of the world, and "the day of tomorrow belongs to you". I want to remind you of the encounters that Jesus himself had with the youth of his day. The Gospels preserve for us a striking account of a conversation Jesus had with a young man. We read there that the young man put to Christ one of the fundamental questions that youth everywhere ask: "What must I do ...?" (Mk 10 :17), and he received a precise and penetrating answer. "Then, Jesus looked at him with love and told him ... Come and follow me" (Mk 10 :21). But see what happens : the young man, who had shown such interest in the fundamental question, "went away sad, for he had many possessions" (Mk 10 :22). Yes, he went away, and—as can be deduced from the context—he refused to accept the call of Christ.

This deeply penetrating event, in its concise eloquence, expresses a great lesson in a few words: it touches upon substantial problems and basic questions that have in no way lost their relevance. Everywhere young people are asking important questions—questions on the meaning of life, on the right way to live, on the true scale of values: "What must I do...?" "What must I do to share in everlasting life?" This questioning bears witness to your thoughts, your consciences, your hearts and wills. This questioning tells the world that you, young people, carry within yourselves a special openness with regard to what is good and what is true. This openness is, in a sense, a "revelation" of the human spirit. And in this openness to truth, to goodness and to beauty, each one of you can find yourself ; indeed, in this openness you can all experience in some measure what the young man in the Gospel experienced : "Jesus looked at him with love" (Mk 10 :21).

5. To each one of you I say therefore: heed the call of Christ when you hear him saying to you: "Follow me !" Walk in my path ! Stand by my side ! Remain in my love ! There is a choice to be made : a choice for Christ and his way of life, and his commandment of love.

The message of love that Christ brought is always important, always relevant. It is not difficult to see how today's world, despite its beauty and grandeur, despite the conquests of science and technology, despite the refined and abundant material goods that it offers, is yearning for more truth, for more love, for more joy. And all of this is found in Christ and in his way of life.

Do I then make a mistake when I tell you, Catholic youth, that it is part of your task in the world and the Church to reveal the true meaning of life where hatred, neglect or selfishness threaten to take over the world? Faced with problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility : escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. But today, I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape. If you really accept that love from Christ, it will lead you to God. Perhaps in the priesthood or religious life; perhaps in some special service to your brothers and sisters: especially to the needy, the poor, the lonely, the abandoned, those whose rights have been trampled upon, or those whose basic needs have not been provided for. Whatever you make of your life, let it be something that reflects the love of Christ. The whole People of God will be all the richer because of the diversity of your commitments. In whatever you do, remember that Christ is calling you, in one way or another, to the service of love: the love of God and of your neighbor.

6. And now coming back to the story of the young man in the Gospels, we see that he heard the call—"Follow me"—but that he "went away sad, for he had many possessions".

The sadness of the young man makes us reflect. We could be tempted to think that many possessions, many of the goods of this world, can bring happiness. We see instead in the case of the young man in the Gospel that his many possessions had become an obstacle to accepting the call of Jesus to follow him. He was not ready to say yes to Jesus, and no to self, to say yes to love and no to escape.

Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not clearly tell you so. For it was Jesus—our Jesus himself—who said : "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15 :14). Love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but it also means joy and human fulfillment.

Dear young people : do not be afraid of honest effort and honest work; do not be afraid of the truth. With Christ's help, and through prayer, you can answer his call, resisting temptations and fads, and every form of mass manipulation. Open your hearts to the Christ of the Gospels—to his love and his truth and his joy. Do not go away sad!

And, as a last word to all of you who listen to me tonight, I would say this : the reason for my mission, for my journey, through the United States is to tell you, to tell everyone—young and old alike—to say to everyone in the name of Christ: "Come and follow me !"

Follow Christ! You who are married: share your love and your burdens with each other; respect the human dignity of your spouse; accept joyfully the life that God gives through you; make your marriage stable and secure for your children's sake.

Follow Christ! You who are single or who are preparing for marriage. Follow Christ! You who are young or old. Follow Christ ! You who are sick or aging ; who are suffering or in pain. You who feel the need for healing, the need for love, the need for a friend—follow Christ!

To all of you I extend—in the name of Christ—the call, the invitation, the plea : "Come and follow me". This is why I have come to America, and why I have come to Boston tonight: to call you to Christ—to call all of you and each of you to live in his love, today and forever. Amen !"