Pope Francis greets adoring crowds in New York City
Pope Francis arrived in New York City Thursday afternoon, greeting a crowd of thousands along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue before leading evening prayers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Francis opened his remarks during the Thursday vespers service greeting his “Muslim brothers and sisters” and expressing sorrow “in the face of tragedy” suffered near Mecca, where a horrific stampede left 700 people dead. “At this moment I assure you of our prayers,” he said, beginning his homily in Spanish.
Francis also spoke of the spirit of gratitude, generosity and warned of the dangers of materialism and “worldly comforts.” “Little by little, it diminishes our spirit of sacrifice,” he said, adding that it “alienates us” from those suffer poverty.
Francis received mass applause when he gave thanks to the nuns and religious women of the United States. “What would the church be without you?” he asked, praising their strength and “spirit of courage.” “To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of these people, I wish to say thank you,” he said.
Francis received a standing ovation following his homily.
Francis’ other stops in New York City include the United Nations and Madison Square, as well as a somber visit to the September 11 Memorial. And there’s a processional through the famed Central Park. Spending just less than two days in the city, Pope Francis will be following the steps of millions of T-shirt-clad sightseers.
The pope arrived in New York Thursday after taking off from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on Thursday afternoon. At the top of the steps to the airplane, he turned, removed his white skull cap, smiled and waved goodbye.
He flew into Kennedy Airport, where his greeting party included Cardinal Timothy Dolan and 200 indigent people. Francis’ then took his motorcade along Fifth Avenue for the vespers service at St. Patrick’s.
Pope Francis started his Manhattan trip in his familiar Fiat 500 before switching to the open-air Popemobile along Fifth Avenue. The pontiff was greeted by cathedral bells and the cheers of thousands outside St. Patrick’s where he was met by both New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The swelling crowd lined the famed avenue, eagerly awaiting Francis’ arrival. It included both young and old — from near and far — all hoping to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father on his way to a 6:45 p.m. vespers service at St Patrick’s.
The pontiff speaks to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, then visits the 9/11 Memorial and goes to Madison Square Garden for a Mass with thousands of people. Then it’s on to Philadelphia for the weekend.
NBC News’ Daniella Silva contributed to this article, which first appeared on NBCNews.com.