Friday, February 22, 2008

Catholic News Service on Pope Benedict and the "City of Immigrants"

According to Benedicta Cipolla, "when Pope Benedict XVI arrives in New York in April, he will find the Big Apple unchanged from papal visits past in at least one regard: It remains a city of immigrants":

The New York Archdiocese, whose jurisdiction includes the three boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, as well as seven counties outside the city, numbers 2.5 million Catholics, an estimated 23 percent of whom are foreign-born. Certain vicariates run higher: 50 percent of Catholics in north Manhattan, for example, are immigrants.

In the Brooklyn Diocese, which encompasses Brooklyn and Queens, 54 percent of the area's 1.3 million Catholics are foreign-born. Overall, 37 percent of New Yorkers were born outside the United States.

The numbers aren't all that different from 1910, when 40 percent of the population was foreign-born, in large part because of immigration from Ireland, Italy, Russia and Austria-Hungary.

According to Fordham University church historian Msgr. Thomas Shelley, the first pastor of New York's first Catholic parish, St. Peter's, reported back in 1785 that fluency in six languages -- English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish -- was necessary for the job.

"When New York's Catholic community was no more than 200 people, it was already ethnically diversified," Msgr. Shelley said in an interview.

Today, New York is even more diverse. The Brooklyn Diocese offers Masses in 24 languages and 24 ethnic apostolates serving 18 different groups. In the New York Archdiocese, Catholics can find Masses in 33 languages on any given weekend.

Benedicta Cipolla's article profiles several largely-immigrant populated parishes


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