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Pope Returns to NYC for First Time Since 1979

October 5, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ In the pre-dawn rain, a lone figure stood holding rosary beads today behind a security gate at Ralph Bunche Park, across from the United Nations.

For the second time in 16 years, Brother Andreas Nocerino, 53, had traveled to New York from the Monastery of Our Savior in Steubenville, Ohio, for a glimpse of the pope.

``I came and stood in exactly the same spot,″ Nocerino said.

After starting his five-day U.S. visit Wednesday in New Jersey, Pope John Paul II arrived in the city on Wednesday night amid a backdrop of luminous skyscrapers.

At 9:30 a.m. today, 25 children from St. Patrick’s elementary school in Providence, R.I., wearing plastic bags to keep their ethnic costumes dry, watched the pope’s silver limousine speed past on his way to the United Nations.

``I guess I saw him. Maybe an outline of him. But I know he waved at us,″ said 11-year-old Renee Berthelette, who was dressed as a French-Canadian settler.

At 6 a.m., hours before the pope’s arrival for a speech to the General Assembly, Nocerino was the only pilgrim amid a cluster of media and police.

An hour later, Operation Shepherd was in full swing; the Secret Service made a sweep with bomb-sniffing dogs; a ``bomb bell″ containment device was moved into place, just in case. And officers with binoculars were stationed on rooftops.

By 8:30 a.m., traffic was still moving; First Avenue delis were still functioning. A dozen faithful had joined Nocerino. And it was still raining.

``I don’t care,″ Francis De Los Angeles said. ``This is the vicar of Christ, the leader of billions of Catholics. I’m thrilled to say I got this close.″

Christine Gallivan, 26, a Brooklyn nanny originally from Kingston, Ontario, hoped to take a picture of the pope _ even if it was just of his limousine.

``I think it’s important as Catholic people to be here,″ she said. ``The world is filled with so much negativity, it’s nice to have one good thing to look forward to.″

De Los Angeles and his wife, Zenaida, natives of the Philippines now living in Union, N.J., also had tickets for the pope’s Giants Stadium appearance later in the day.

Brother Nocerino had none. But he planned to stand, as close as possible, outside the pope’s other venues: Central Park and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

``This is a matter of faith and a celebration of support,″ he said. ``I thought I was too old to get excited. Then, last night, seeing him on TV, and realizing he’s so close, I got excited all over again.″

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