Mayor Bill de Blasio may not be getting an audience with Pope Francis during his vacation to Italy, but he did get into the Vatican for a private meeting with its secretary of state, which gave the mayor a chance to personally express his desire to have the pope visit New York City. NY1's Grace Rauh reports from Rome.
ROME - It's a building most visitors to the Vatican will never see: the foreign affairs office, where the pope meets with international dignitaries. It was here that Mayor Bill de Blasio sat down with the Vatican's secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, to invite the pope to come to New York.
"We understand that no one has a more difficult schedule in the world than the pope, and nothing definitive was decided in the meeting, but Cardinal Parolin was very open to the request, and I emphasized to him that not just for Catholic New Yorkers in the city and in all of metropolitan New York, but for all New Yorkers, it would be an extraordinary moment for our city," de Blasio said.
The mayor spoke exclusively to NY1 after the Vatican visit, appearing with the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Ken Hackett.
"It was very important for the mayor to come here to make this request," Hackett said.
De Blasio said he has been working for months with Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York to make the papal visit a reality. Demand for the pope's time is obviously high, but the mayor said he wanted to make it clear to the Vatican that the city is enthusiastic about the prospect of a visit, which would be the first by a pope since 2008.
Later, the mayor met with Italy's foreign minister, prompting a question about whether he'd be interested in a career in diplomacy.
"There is a lot of work to be done, so I am happy to have my humble focus locally on our small town of New York," he said.
Next came a visit with Italy's former integration minister, Cecile Kyenge. Kyenge dealt with immigration and diversity issues in that position, and she was the target of racist attacks in Italy when she held the post.
"Cecile showed throughout these years a personal strength that was exemplary, and for us, was an inspiration," de Blasio said.
The mayor's son, Dante, skipped the event to get some sleep.
As for the papal visit, it may be some time before the mayor learns whether or not it will be a reality. For now, he knows that the invitation has been personally extended.