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Blakeview: Pope John Paul II visits New Orleans

A three-day trip in 1987

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Thirty years ago this week, New Orleanians of all faiths witnessed the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to New Orleans, a whirlwind three-day trip that Archbishop Philip Hannan and leaders and volunteers within the Archdiocese of New Orleans spent 16 months planning. The Holy Father's stop was part of a nine-city U.S. tour. He arrived in the city on Sept. 11, 1987 and was greeted at the New Orleans International Airport by the Olympia Brass Band. He spoke to 3,000 clergy and worshippers in St. Louis Cathedral and to college educators at Xavier University. At the Superdome, he spoke to African-American bishops and Catholic educators. The dome also was the site of a memorable youth rally, which featured a mini Mardi Gras parade and an appearance by the St. Augustine High School Marching 100. Pope John Paul II celebrated an outdoor Mass on a special altar built near the UNO Lakefront Arena. Rain soaked the crowd of more than 100,000 people who attended the Mass, which featured music from Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and Ronnie Kole — but the downpour stopped literally as soon as the Pontiff entered the stage. The pope died in 2005 and was canonized in 2014.

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