Pope Paul VI has the distinction of being the first pope to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, on Oct. 4, 1965.
More than half a century later, this past Oct. 14, the new saint of the Church—one of seven blesseds declared saints by Pope Francis in Rome that day—was remembered at Masses at the cathedral, including the 10:15 a.m. liturgy celebrated by Msgr. Robert Ritchie, the cathedral rector.
“People remember it, even to this day,” Msgr. Ritchie told reporters outside the cathedral, after Mass, of Paul VI’s visit, which included an address to the United Nations, an ecumenical meeting at Holy Family Church in Manhattan and a Mass at Yankee Stadium. “The pictures are great, very dramatic,” Msgr. Ritchie said. “His attendance at the United Nations was the first in history. And we just hope that memory of his looking and working for peace is something that more people do now.”
In addition to Paul VI, who led the last sessions of the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation, six other saints were canonized: Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who defended the poor, called for justice and was assassinated in 1980; Vincenzo Romano, an Italian priest who died in 1831; Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, a Spanish nun who ministered in Mexico and Bolivia and died in 1943; Catherine Kasper, the 19th-century German founder of a religious order; Francesco Spinelli, a 19th-century priest and founder of a religious order; and Nunzio Sulprizio, a layman who died in Naples in 1836 at age 19.
“In honoring today Archbishop Romero,” Msgr. Ritchie said in his homily, Pope Francis is “honoring a man who understood the call of Christ to go to the poorest of the poor in his own country, in his own diocese, and to shout out loud for their rights and for their protection and for justice for them; and that got him killed for speaking up in the name of Christ for the poor and the marginalized of his country.”
Acknowledging Pope Paul VI’s plea for peace in his address at the United Nations, Msgr. Ritchie, in his homily said, “the pope stood there and he said that this is what we stand for, as the Catholic Church, as a religious leader of the world, that peace is something every one of you should be working for.”
Today, “we still need to say that same prayer,” Msgr. Ritchie said, “whether it’s to the United Nations or it’s to our own people or it’s to the people of the world—that the whole concept of hatred of others because of their nationality or because of their power or because of their riches is something that goes against what every person of faith, every follower of Jesus, of course, would have to say that’s exactly the way it is.”
Remembering St. Paul VI, the rector suggested the faithful “ask God to help us to work for peace in any way that we can ourselves.”
Msgr. Ritchie’s homily resonated with Riley Davis, 17, and her mother, Mary Frances Davis, 44, who were visiting from Good Shepherd parish in Denver.
Riley, who is a student at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., said being at the cathedral for the first time on an historic day in the Church was “really cool.”
“The homily hit me because Regis Jesuit is focused on the social justice piece,” Mrs. Davis said. She shared that during the homily, her daughter turned to her and said, “‘that had a message for people who are Catholic and non-Catholic.’”
“Oscar Romero was who I was thinking about,” Mrs. Davis said of the homily as it underscored that “we are such a blessed country, but how can we in our everyday lives keep reaching out to the less fortunate?”
Msgr. Ritchie, speaking with the press about the new saints, stressed, “The Church is always being renewed by men and women who have dedicated their lives to the people of God. Sometimes they get famous and become saints but we have saints every day. These are special.”