Papal Chalice

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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 and here.  

This post was written by Fr. Michael Morris, Archivist for the Archdiocese of New York.

Chalice used by both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II at their New York City papal masses.

Chalice used by both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II at their New York City papal masses.

When I was the sacristan during my years at Saint Joseph Seminary back in the mid-1980’s, I was frequently asked by the faculty to avail for Mass the chalice and paten used by Blessed Paul VI at his Mass for Peace at Yankee Stadium, October 4, 1965.  The chalice was made in Milan, with a gold content so high that the cup of the chalice is actually supple and almost malleable.

Over the years, the chalice would be brought out for special Masses at Saint Joseph’s Seminary and was used by Saint John Paul II at his Pontifical Mass at Central Park, New York on October 7, 1995.  In time, the chalice was relegated to a seminary safe containing a number of other chalices.

Historical memory to the rescue!

The papal chalice has been removed from the Archives exhibit for use by Pope Francis.

The papal chalice has been removed from the Archives exhibit for use by Pope Francis.

The chalice became the centerpiece of our most recent exhibit, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace:  The 50th Anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s Pilgrimage to New York City.  The story gets better!  At the request of His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, the chalice will be used by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday evening, September 25, 2015.

The 1965 Papal Mass in Yankee Stadium was a historic event.  It was attended by over 90,000 people, including representatives from the Protestant and Jewish faiths.  The previous attendance record for a Yankee Stadium event had been 81,841.  The altar was placed over second base, and the Pope walked the length of the field from home plate, where he exited his car, up the steps to the altar.  The Pope brought the chalice with him from Italy, and also brought a second chalice, which was gifted to the Church of the Holy Family, and can still be seen there today.  During the Yankee Stadium mass, Pope Paul was the main celebrant, and directly distributed communion to 12 children, who were selected to represent all of the continents.  The Pope offered a special votive mass for peace, the message of his trip to New York City.

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