UES church prepares for pope's visit

April 18, 2008 11:19:45 AM PDT
When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in New York this month, he has a very busy schedule. But one place he'll carve out time to visit is a church on Manhattan's Upper East Side.St. Thomas, on East 87th Street, has German roots, just like the pope.

Eyewitness News reporter Kemberly Richardson has more on the excitement there.

It will be a welcome from what will seem like family at St. Joseph's, a parish which, like Pope Benedict XVI, shares the same deep German roots.

Monsignor Lawrence Connaughton will be front and center as the pontiff leads an ecumenical prayer service April 18.

"He will be coming joyfully, asking us to participate in the joy of believing in Jesus Christ and bringing that Good News to others," he said.

Established in 1873, St. Joseph's has long been considered a home to immigrants.

Julia Winter, who heads up the German committee, is making sure things are just right for the pope's visit, right down to children waving Bavarian flags.

"I felt it was very important to represent the whole German character of our parish," she said.

While this will be the pope's stage, there is a whole community who is anxiously awaiting his arrival. It includes two very special ladies on 86th Street, once called German Broadway.

It's we found Ernestine Wallner and Barbara Haimeil, longtime followers of the pope.

"Oh my God, if I would see him, I would hug him," Barbara said. "I would say, 'Dear Father.' It would be the most exciting thing in my life."

"Since I'm Bavarian, and I have a chance to see a Bavarian pope in a lifetime, it's quite an excitement," Ernestine said.

Ernestine visited the pope's home in the village of Pentling in Germany, where he lived for more than 30 years. It was big news then, and everyone says even bigger news now that he's coming to the neighborhood, a home away from home.