Pope Francis asked to circle Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island

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Monday, September 28, 2015

NEW YORK -- Pope Francis asked to circle the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on his way out of New York, becoming emotional as the helicopter carried him over the sights that greeted millions of immigrants to America, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said.

Dolan, who joined the pope for his flight out of Manhattan, said Francis asked the pilot to make a detour over New York Harbor.

"As we circled Ellis Island, as we circled the Statue of Liberty, I could see he was very 'commosso' - as they say in Italian." The word Dolan chose means "moved."

Francis has made migration rights a priority of his pontificate, stirred by the crisis affecting Europe in particular but also compelled to speak out for the rights of immigrants to seek a better life for themselves because of his own personal story.

Francis' paternal grandparents, Giovanni and Rosa Margherita Bergoglio, immigrated to Buenos Aires in January 1929 with their son Mario - the pope's father - from Italy's northern Piemonte region.

The significance to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was clear to Francis, Dolan said.

"He said, 'You know, Buenos Aires was a city of immigrants too,'" Dolan said.