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Dolan, de Blasio eager to host pope in NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for photographs with

Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for photographs with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at the Cardinal's residence in Manhattan. (Jan. 13, 2014) Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cardinal Timothy Dolan said they would love to roll out the red carpet for Pope Francis and help spread his mission of fighting for the poor to New Yorkers.

In their first meeting Monday at the cardinal's residence, the mayor and leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York said one of the topics they discussed was formally inviting Pope Francis for a visit as soon as possible. De Blasio, who isn't a practicing Catholic, said he is inspired by Francis' focus on fighting inequality.

"We have a common passion and a common wish: We hope that someday Pope Francis will visit our city and offer his extraordinary blessings for New York City," the mayor told reporters while standing with Dolan in front of a picture of the pontiff.

Dolan, who appeared very jovial and friendly with the progressive mayor, said he agreed with de Blasio about a papal visit and said it would be instrumental for their mutual goals for the city. The cardinal said he and the mayor touched on several other issues during their meeting, including the rezoning of the area around St. Patrick's Cathedral.

"This will be a deep and constant relationship," Dolan said.

Political experts say the city would not only be a perfect destination for the pope, who has made headlines by offering more relatively liberal opinions on homosexuality and women's rights and atheists, but could also excite New Yorkers of all faiths.

"No matter what your faith is, people are listening to him and seeing the work he does," said Brian Browne, the assistant vice president for government relations at St. John's University.

George Arzt, former spokesman for the late Mayor Ed Koch, said Francis' and de Blasio's goals are very much in sync, and a visit would help the mayor push his agenda. "It's a message that goes across the religious world," he said.

Despite the buzz over de Blasio's enthusiasm for Francis' policies, experts and leaders of other religious groups said they aren't concerned the mayor will forget about them.

Daryl Johnson, of the Islamic activist group the Cordoba Initiative, said de Blasio has reached out to the city's Muslim population and has been very attentive to their needs at City Hall. "We happen to believe that Mayor de Blasio will be more committed, and will demonstrate a more fervent commitment, because of his progressive platform and the more inclusive nature of his rhetoric," he said.

With Cari Romm

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