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A Reflection Of Pope John Paul II's 1987 Visit To The Valley

Pope John Paul II
(Photo courtesy of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix)
Pope John Paul II prays in St. Mary's Basilica before addressing the community outside from the Basilica's balcony on Sept. 14, 1987.

Pope John Paul II arrived in Phoenix on Sept. 14, 1987. Among his several scheduled stops was a visit to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

He toured of the Catholic hospital, including the pediatric unit. His first public address in the Valley was to the crowd outside the hospital.

"It is a special privilege for me, special grace to visit hospital,” he said.

The Valley got a sight of the Holy Father in the traditional, and famous, glass-covered popemobile. Central Avenue was lined with people on both sides of the street as he made his way to St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix. The Basilica designation is made by the Pope, granting the church special privileges. Father Warren Rouse was the pastor of St. Mary’s at the time.

“I had talked with Bishop O’Brien, oh maybe a year and a half before when we got St. Mary’s Church declared a Basilica. I said, 'Well, if the Pope ever comes to Phoenix he has to go to the Basilica because it’s his own now.' And we both laughed, and we were not laughing a year later," Father Warren Rouse said.

During the Pontiff’s time in the church, Pope John Paul II stopped to pray. This was his time away from the crowd. There were only a few people around him, including Pastor Rouse, Bishop O’Brien and Carol Lynde. She was the only cameraperson transmitting the private image to the world.

“I come from news where you cover a lot of bad. And then here was the absolute epitome of grace and goodness and holiness,” Carol Lynde said.

Lynde said she’s not catholic or dedicated to church. But working on this day was a poignant moment for her. She realized it while recording the Pope in the church.

“I’m in this moment, and I’m trying to follow focus with my camera as he’s moving, and the director who’s out in this big production truck is screaming in my ear. I guess my focus wasn’t perfect all the times ‘focus, focus, you blankity, blank, blank.’ so that’s going in my headset, while I’m having this incredible holy experience.”

After his moment of prayer, he stepped outside the St. Mary’s Basilica balcony and addressed the mass crowd in English and Spanish.

“I extend all of you, the people of Phoenix and American southwest, my greetings of joy and peace,” he said.

Among his most memorable stops was his participation at the Tekakwitha Conference at the Arizona State Fair Grounds Coliseum. It’s a national gathering of Native American Catholics.

The Pontiff was blessed and received an eagle feather. It’s the symbol of peace, love and respect.

"Present this feather to you on behalf of all the Native Americans in the North American continent," said Emmett White, of the Gila River Indian Community, who presented the Pontiff with an eagle feather.

The Pope’s visit ended with a mass for about 75,000 people at Sun Devil Stadium.

Father Warren Rouse said he remembered this event vividly.

“To me that was really a big thing, when at the proper time, whatever thousand people during the all joined together singing the our father,” he said.

The audio from Pope John Paul II's visit to Phoenix was provided courtesy of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez was a reporter at KJZZ from 2008 to 2015.