Pope Francis' has been vocal about the need to embrace all and the Pontiff will do just that when he visits the city this month, by meeting with groups of people often overlooked or even shunned, such as undocumented immigrants. NY1's Erin Clarke filed this report.
All of the faces of the people who will meet Pope Francis when he visits Our Lady Queen of Angels church in East Harlem are those of immigrants, some undocumented.
Some are teenagers who came here alone, fleeing violence and poverty. They're Christians escaping persecution. They're people who are ill. They're mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters.
"This is a very, very special community...immigrants and refugees," says Monsignor Kevin Sullivan of Catholic Charities.
On Thursday, Catholic Charities introduced some of the 150 people who will spend time with the Pontiff in East Harlem and receive a blessing, an experience all highly anticipate.
"I have no words to explain it. It's a once in a lifetime chance," one woman says.
"It's like a dream coming true," says one man.
"I feel cloud nine," another man says.
Being chosen to meet with the Pope, they say, is an honor, especially because the Pope will be in the city for just 40 hours, a short stop before heading to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
While Pope Francis will make several stops while he's in the U.S., Catholic Charities thinks the visit to this neighborhood is the most important.
The Pope's decision to embrace immigrants, including the undocumented, comes amid a raging debate in America about whether the undocumented should be welcomed, or shown the door. The Pope's plans in East Harlem show where he stands in that debate.
"Pope Francis has raised up and spoken of the importance of refugees and immigrants, of the importance of them being treated with respect and welcome," says Sullivan.
"Having this be the place that he comes not only to meet the diverse community, but also to embrace the challenges that exist in communities like is really touching an humbling," says Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez.
Those meeting Pope Francis say they're hopeful his visit will shed light on the immigrant community's contributions, and plight.
"I still have hope when I see the Pope that things will change, that we're going to have better immigration laws," says immigration counselor Elvis Garcia Callejas.
For them, the visit is about much more than meeting a famous figure, but someone whom they see as an agent of change.