Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski will be at all six stops that Pope Francis will make during his Sept. 19-27 visit to Cuba and the United States. That includes the pontiff’s visit to New York, where Wenski has been invited to appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The archdiocese also is organizing pilgrimages to Havana, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The largest contingent — 189 pilgrims, including South Florida Catholics, a smattering from the rest of the United States, and bishops and priests — will travel to Havana where Mass will be celebrated in the Plaza de la Revolución against a backdrop of huge images of revolutionary icons Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos.
Wenski had initially thought logistical problems would keep him from attending papal Masses in Holguín and El Cobre in eastern Cuba, but a flight organized for members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops means he’ll also be at those stops on the papal itinerary before heading to Washington, where he’ll be in attendance when Francis addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Sept. 24.
The pope leaves the same day for New York, where he will say vespers with clergy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, speak at the United Nations, visit the Ground Zero memorial and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.
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Wenski has already been prepping for his Colbert appearance, said Mary Ross Agosta, communications director of the archdiocese, by taping this week’s shows to “have a better handle on [Colbert’s] personality.”
When the show called after Wenski appeared on the front page of the New York Times discussing the pope’s encyclical on the environment, Ross Agosta said she accepted the invitation on the archbishop’s behalf before even consulting with him.
Rev. Richard Vigoa, the archdiocese director of worship, expects Wenski will be ready. “He’s quick on his feet, and he’s very sharp,” he said.
The Miami pilgrims will be arriving in Havana “where the pope has jam-packed days” on Friday, Sept. 18, and will attend the papal Mass Sunday morning and two other Masses celebrated by Wenski, said Vigoa. Before the pope’s arrival in Havana at 4 p.m. Sept. 19, the pilgrims will have the morning free. for activities. such as visiting their childhood homes, the graves of loved ones or churches where they were baptized, he said.
The Miami pilgrims won’t be going to Cuba empty-handed. Each has been asked to bring up to a gallon-sized bag of over-the-counter medications that will be presented to Caritas, the Cuban Catholic Charities, for distribution at comedores, soup kitchens for the elderly that the archdiocese has been supporting, said Vigoa.
Each pilgrim also will be given 25 to 50 rosaries to pass out at the Plaza.
A group of 50 pilgrims will leave Miami on Sept. 22 and travel overnight to be on hand for the pontiff’s Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. They don’t have tickets for the Mass so their plan is to “land and stand” and get as close to the Mass as possible, said Ana Rodriguez-Soto, Miami editor of the Florida Catholic.
On Sept. 24, they do have tickets for the Jumbotron that will be set up outside Congress when the pontiff speaks and they hope to catch sight of Pope Francis because he is expected to come out to greet pilgrims, Rodriguez-Soto said.
Another group of 18 archdiocese pilgrims will make the trip to Philadelphia.