Pope Francis' chair for Madison Square Garden Mass unveiled

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For the first time, the chair Pope Francis will use during mass at Madison Square Garden later this month was unveiled.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan proudly displayed the armchair at MSG Wednesday. It has a light brown finish with a darker mahogany trim and a white cushioned seat, back and arms.

"A chair represents unity and a chair represents teaching authority," Dolan said, adding that the pope wanted something simple and wooden without any designs.

The chair was constructed by a group of immigrant day laborers in a garage in Port Chester. The Archdiocese of New York said immigrants were specifically chosen because of Francis' concern over those who are marginalized and for his desire for justice in the world.

Inmates at a Philadelphia prison are also constructing a chair for the pope's visit there.

In New York City, Francis will wear green vestments for the Sept. 25 Mass that 20,000 people are expected to attend. About 200 deacons and 150 volunteers will assist him in giving out communion. The readings will be said in English and Spanish, and other prayers will be in Gaelic, Polish, German and other languages.

"It's going to a joyful occasion," Dolan said. "It's going to be filled with enthusiasm and exuberance, but it's also going to be a very prayerful, reverential occasion."

Before Mass begins, Francis will circle the crowd inside the Garden while standing in a vehicle that resembles a golf cart.

"He wants to do that so he can see the people," Dolan said.

Francis added a trip through parts of Central Park to his schedule as another opportunity for people to see him, and Dolan said there could be even more additions to his itinerary.

"Surprises are kept to a minimum because this has to be carefully choreographed and we have to pay special attention to the legitimate requests of the pros at security, but balance that out with the fact that we have a pope of surprises," he said. "So stay tuned because I think we will probably see some."

During his visit to the United States, Francis will also travel to Washington, D.C.

Eyewitness News got a sneak peek at the chair in August as Brother Salvatore Sammarco and his three fellow carpenters worked on it from a simple photograph and detailed plans.

"I would say it's holy and unites us as one as we are," Brother Sammarco said. "It brings out the reality."

The men, Hector Rojas, from Mexico' Fausto Hernandez, a native of the Dominican Republic; and Francisco SantaMaria, a native of Nicaragua; were chosen to help Brother Sal in a collaboration between Don Bosco workers in Port Chester and Catholic Charities in Yonkers.

"Spiritual connection, you know," Rojas said. "That's why it's more special. I am glad to be helping the guys build the chair."

Gonzalo Cruz, Don Bosco's director, helped to interpret for Fausto.


"My family is so happy and I am so proud of this project, because we are day laborers and building this chair for Pope Francis," SantaMaria said.

Dolan saw their handiwork up close.

"To develop those skills, to help them enhance their dignity and to serve others," Timothy Cardinal Dolan said. "The simplicity that Pope Francis wanted with his love and care for those who have a particular burden in life," Dolan said.

Two other pieces, the altar and the ambo, or pulpit, were being handcrafted by students and wood shop teacher William Kelly at Lincoln Hall in nearby Lincolndale.

"It's an honor," student Mauricio Agudeo said. "I never thought I'd ever get the chance to do something like this."

When the pope sits in his chair during mass, there will be, as the men believe, a spiritual feeling.

"When I see the pope he is very simple," SantaMaria said.

"It's like sitting at the feet of Jesus," Sammarco said.
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