Friday, December 19, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A Papal Vision for Hizzoner

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Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday played a smart political card while on his Italian vacation – reaching out to the pope.

NY1's Grace Rauh caught up with the mayor in an exclusive interview at the Vatican after Hizzoner sat down with the Vatican's secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, and the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Ken Hackett, to talk about bringing the pope to New York City.

"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 told Rauh.

While it would have been a coup to have actually sat down with Pope Francis, de Blasio is following in the footsteps of then-Mayor David Dinkins, who also wanted to meet with the pope while on his way to South Africa. That visit also didn't happen – and Dinkins privately blamed then-Cardinal John O'Connor for the summit not coming together. But there's clearly no such conspiracy afoot with Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Although the mayor won't exactly win the Catholic of the Year award, that was also obviously the case for Michael Bloomberg, a Jewish mayor who hosted Pope Benedict's visit in 2008. While Benedict will probably go down in Catholic history as the papal equivalent of Gerald Ford, his trip was a stunning success while he also directly addressed criticism of the church's handling of sexual abuse cases.

Pope Francis is already enjoying sky-high approval ratings in the world and it would be an international coup for de Blasio to bring him to the five boroughs – while also helping him with white Catholics, a group that tends to vote more conservatively than the mayor's base.

While there's certainly a make your own sundae aspect to the mayor's vacation, continuing to make some connections to New York while on his break is a crucial component of his trip if he wants to bring something back home besides a better working knowledge of his Italian. Meanwhile, you can bet that Hizzoner is praying for the pope.

Bob Hardt

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