Eyes around the world will be on the world's most famous arena when Pope Francis holds mass at Madison Square Garden later this month. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed this preview.
With a basketball court in the background, the chair that Pope Francis will use to celebrate mass at Madison Square Garden was unveiled Wednesday. It's one of the first pieces delivered to transform an arena known for sports and concerts into a spiritual center on September 25.
"It's going to be a joyful occasion. It's going to be filled with enthusiasm and exuberance. But it's also going to be a very prayerful, reverential occasion for at least an hour and a half when the eyes of the world are on this space," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
More than 20,000 people are expected to fill these seats. MSG officials released renderings of what the arena will look like. The altar and the podium are still being built. Like the chair, their design is simple. Dolan says it's how Pope Francis wanted it—adhering to his teachings of humility.
Immigrant carpenters in Westchester made the chair. Using oak, hardwood trim and white cushions, it took three weeks to create.
"A chair is very important in Catholic imagination. A chair represents unity and a chair represents teaching authority. the man who occupies the chair of St. Peter is our Holy Father the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. So wherever he goes, you want to have an important chair," Dolan said.
This will be the second time a Pope visits the Garden. The first was in 1979 when Pope John Paul the second attended a youth rally here.
"That day was one of the top moments in the history of Madison Square Garden," said MSQ Sports Properties Executive Vice President Joel Fisher.
At this month's mass, areas will be created for confession, the sacrament of reconciliation before the mass. Before reaching the altar, Pope Francis plans to be close to the people.
"The good folks here have arranged for an open vehicle, a simple golf cart type of thing where the holy father could stand and he would circle the Garden," Dolan said.
The theme for the mass is peace and justice. It comes after the pope's visit to the United Nations that same day.
Programming note: As the city prepares for the papal visit, Time Warner Cable has created a special Pope Francis section on the Local On Demand channel. It includes a special documentary about the pope and can be found on channel 1020.