1994: The Year the Pope Cancelled on New York

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As the Archdiocese of New York prepares for the arrival of Pope Francis on September 24, 2015, the Archives is taking a look back at the previous papal visits. Pope Francis will be the fourth pope to visit New York City and to speak at the United Nations since Blessed Paul VI’s historic arrival in 1965.  See other posts in our blog series here.

The tentative Itinerary for the 1994 Papal Visit

The tentative itinerary for the 1994 Papal Visit

Within our collection of Saint John Paul II’s visit to New York in 1995, we have an entire series related to planning materials dated to 1994. Based on our other papal visit records, planning begins no more than a year out, as the schedule is always subject to change. So why is there an entire box dedicated to 1994? Well it turns out that Pope John Paul II was scheduled to visit New York in October 1994, before the entire trip was cancelled with only a month’s notice! Cardinal John O’Connor and the Vatican were preparing for the arrival of John Paul II on October 20, 1994 in which he would visit New York, Newark, NJ, and Baltimore, MD.

The first Papal Task Force meeting took place in April 1994 and over the course of the next few months the schedule of the Pope’s visit came to fruition. Ticket forms were distributed as eager members of the Archdiocese of New York applied to see the Pope either at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for vespers or mass at Yonkers Raceway. Security details were laid out, music was arranged, souvenirs were designed, and the press was notified. The majority of the planning was complete by September.

Unfortunately, at the suggestion of his doctor, John Paul II announced his decision to cancel his United States trip on September 22, 1994. The Pope had broken his leg in April of that year and he felt that he would be unable to do the necessary walking during his time here. The news brought great disappointment to the Archdiocese of New York as the Papal Visit Office was officially closed and the necessary thank you notes were written. However, Cardinal O’Connor remained hopeful as he announced that the Pope would reschedule his visit for the fall of 1995, a visit that would take place.


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