Bag in hand, Pope Francis departs for New York

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After a hectic few days in Washington, Pope Francis made a relatively low-key exit to New York from Joint Base Andrews Sept. 24.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States Carlo Maria Vigano, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dozens of schoolchildren from the Washington Archdiocese, a small crowd of military servicemen and women, dignitaries and other guests greeted the pope with cheers and chants as he arrived in a black Fiat, accompanied by a lengthy motorcade with flashing lights and sirens.

Brendan Gotta, who works in the Arlington Diocese's Office for Family Life, was one of just five young adults from the diocese invited to attend. Henry Sutanto from the Catholic Sports Club Soccer League, Megan Cefferillo from the young adults group at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, Marie Ruff from the young adults group at St. John Neumann Church in Reston, and Erin Healy from the Office of Communications, joined him there.

"It was really a very intimate setting. Or at least, as intimate as it can be with the Holy Father," said Gotta.

The young crowds chanted, "We love Francis, yes we do; We love Francis, how about you?" and prayed the rosary as they waited for the pope.

"There were a lot of excited people," Gotta said.

The pope shook hands with Kerry and spoke for a few minutes with several guests before walking up the steps, black bag in hand, to the American Airlines Boeing 777-200 jet. He turned to face the crowds, waved and then walked into the plane.

Stachyra Lopez can be reached at

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015