NEW YORK —
Select students from Catholic schools across New York City will meet, greet and even sing for Pope Francis during his Friday visit to an East Harlem elementary school with a socio-economically and culturally diverse student population.
Our Lady Queen of Angels third-grader Emely Rodiguez, who will participate in singing "The Prayer of Saint Francis," called the pope a caring person.
"He cares about the poor, and he doesn’t care if the poor are bad, he finds a way to get money to give to them," Emely said.
Mia Waterman likes him because “he loves everybody.”
Pope Francis will visit Our Lady Queen of Angels school in East Harlem in New York City on Sept. 25 during his five-day visit to the United States. (Photo: M. Bush / VOA)
The school has a predominantly minority student population: 70 percent Hispanic and 22 percent African-American. Sixty-nine percent of the youngsters qualify for need-based scholarships.
The pope's visit was planned because of his desire to focus on underserved immigrant families and to assess inner-city Catholic education.
For participating school principal Monsignor Edmund Whalen, the visit is an opportunity to reinforce the school's mission.
"Our Catholic schools welcome students of every background," said Whalen, "and form them as daughters and sons of God who make a difference in our world and make the world a better place."
Danielle Armato, right, is one of 12 students who will get to meet Pope Francis. (Photo: R. Taylor/ VOA)
12 to meet Pope
Twelve high school seniors were selected, on merit, to meet with the pontiff.
Danielle Armato said it’s an opportunity to thank him for reaching out to their generation.
"He's trying to help modernize the church, which is great because, like, we are growing up in our society where things are a bit different than the church," she said.
Daniel Afrifa, like many of his peers, said Pope Francis is "inspiring."
"It’s kind of popular to kind of steer away from religion, but he's sort of making it cool again to be religious, you know. He's very accepting of multiple groups. He has a lot of liberal views."
Daniel calls the pope "a breath of fresh air," not only for Catholicism, but for religion in general.