15 MAY 2008

So, you were looking for a miracle during Pope Benedict's visit. There it was. If not for a miracle, how come a very accented German conservative 81 year old man was popularly welcome in New York like an adored rock star?

It must be the mystery of faith, the power of the human bond blended with the free spirit of New York: we are all strengthened by our variety rather than separated by our differences.

The United Nations, recovering from disdained irrelevance, needed the refreshing spiritual inspiration. The Vatican's new Pontiff, breaking out of a series of misinterpretations, found an invigorating platform. New York, city and state, emerging from a gubernatorial scandal, needed to signal an image of responsibility and respect.

More to the point, ALL WENT VERY WELL EVERYWHERE. At the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took personal charge to ensure that every detail matched the importance of the occasion. After all, the Pope arrived in response to his personal invitation, exactly one year after his own visit to the Vatican. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg and particularly Police Commissioner Kelly applied a flexible yet firm balance between the safety of the distinguished visitor and the daily requirements of the busiest city in the world. Masses went off without a hitch. If the one in Saint Patrick was understandably limited, the thousands flocking to Shea Stadium proved to be as disciplined as they were enthusiastic.

Pope Benedict VI came across it all totally different than he had been previously perceived. The image he projected in New York displayed him to be perceptive, thoughtful, caring, modest, tireless preacher of faith, an advocate of dialogue, a defender of human dignity and a voice for hope.

That's the spirit of New York, New Yorkers would claim. It's the Holy Spirit, Catholics would say. It's the Secretary General's dedicated prayers, his admirers would insist. Any way you looked at it, the accomplishment was outstanding -- if you were looking for a miracle at 72nd Street, that was it.