The Pope and the Priest

The visit by the Pope to NYC this week took on biblical proportions. Skyscrapers were enrobed in his image and hundreds of thousands of people made pilgrimages to see him. The Pope for President! No-one seemed to mind the street closures and standstill traffic –  it was not so much a hindrance as an opportunity to show we were better than to beep. From the pub to the pulpit Pope Francis was a welcome guest and how refreshing it was to have respect rather than trumpery across the political and religious spectrum.

The well rehearsed security procedures of the NYPD meant the 40 hour residence of the Pope was transformed from being accessible to camera crews on one day to being completely locked down the next. My thought of a chance encounter – as serendipitously happened with other New Yorkers, or even the chance to snap a picture of the Popemobile with my own Fitzymobile, was not to be. However there were other miracles in the making. Around the corner at The Frick a group of pilgrims from Dieppe were on a dual mission. A large family group, they had come from France to meet the Pope and were at The Frick seeking a photo opportunity. The leader, an engaging and energetic priest, held prints of Turner’s famous painting of  ‘The Harbor of Dieppe’ – one of the museum’s many treasures – as he told the story about his church. The twelfth century dome, featured in the skyline of the painting, had been cut! Lapsing from languid french to the dramatic english verb, the priest explained how the rotting timbers in the dome meant the ancient structure had been dismantled, and would need many millions of euros to be restored. He wanted a photograph of himself with the original painting to present to the mayor of Dieppe and show how iconic the dome was and how essential was it’s rebuilding – regardless of cost. The strict policy of no photographs at The Frick stood in his way as did the vigilance of the security guards. But not for long. As it happened the chief curator had just been in Dieppe researching a future exhibition of Turner, she was in her office, and she could make this happen.

So it didn’t matter that I didn’t actually see the Pope. Whether it was the generosity of spirit that his visit inspired or the rich determination of the Priest, the dome of Saint Jacques may be on it’s way back up. I’m sure the romantic in Turner would approve…


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1 Response to The Pope and the Priest

  1. Anne Toscano says:

    We are in NYC at the moment in the Shelborne Affinia hotel you recommended. We are so happy .
    Thankyou so much for recommendation .
    As regards Popes visit we ran around trying to see him also got stuck in traffic watched him on TV
    But didn’t see him live.But we feel privileged to have been a part of New Yorks wonderful tribute to seems everyone was happy he was here.
    We continue to enjoy every dingle thing about this great city
    Joe and Anne from Melbourne i

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