RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
He arrived in Manhattan, though, last night. And at St. Patrick's Cathedral, he received a warm and lively welcome. Fred Mogul from member station WNYC was there.
FRED MOGUL, BYLINE: Weeks of anticipation led to hours of flag-waving and cheering along the pope's route to the cathedral.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Francisco. Francisco. Francisco.
MOGUL: Inside, people waited for the pope to arrive. Dr. William Cole, a self-proclaimed lapsed Catholic, described the festive atmosphere as a lot of schmoozing. Even though he hasn't been actively religious in 40 years, when a patient offered him a pair of tickets, he grabbed them.
WILLIAM COLE: I miss a lot of the community and the tradition and the rituals. Maybe I'll have some epiphany from the experience and start seeing religion from a different point of view.
MOGUL: Cole objects to how the Catholic Church treats women and overwhelmingly puts power in the hands of men. Sister Kathleen Hutsko, from the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, says Pope Francis appreciates religious women's work.
KATHLEEN HUTSKO: We feel that he does know that we are important in the church and that we need to continue to be respected and taken seriously.
MOGUL: The pope arrived with great fanfare and slowly made his way to the altar, pausing to shake hands and hug and kiss many of the pilgrims who'd flocked to see him. He gave a homily in Spanish, expressing sympathy for the hundreds of Muslims trampled in Mecca and for the defenseless sons and daughters sexually abused by priests. On a more upbeat note, to loud applause, he praised women for being bedrocks of American Catholicism.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).
MOGUL: What would the church be without you, strong women, fighters with that spirit of courage that puts us in the frontline of the Evangelical message? William Cole, the lapsed Catholic, said he was deeply touched by the pope's words on women and on sacrifice. So did he have an epiphany?
COLE: Not quite an epiphany, but I think I'm thinking of things differently.
MOGUL: Cole said it'll be a while before it's clear where the pope's influence will lead him, just as it'll be a while before it's clear what impact Francis is making on the Catholic Church he grew up with and left. For NPR News, I'm Fred Mogul in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.