Pope Francis, who likes to highlight his roots as a son of Italian parents who immigrated to Argentina, flew in a helicopter over Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty Saturday before leaving New York City for Philadelphia, the last stop of a nine-day trip that began in Cuba.
"You could see he was very, very moved," Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was aboard the helicopter, said after seeing the pope's plane off at Kennedy Airport.
"And he said, 'You know, Buenos Aires was a city of immigrants, too,' and as we circled Ellis Island, as we circled the Statue of Liberty, I could see he was very emotional," Dolan said.
"When we flew over Brooklyn and Queens he said, 'This is where the people live,' " the cardinal said.
The helicopter carrying the pontiff from Manhattan arrived at Kennedy just after 8:40 a.m. He greeted religious leaders and others on the tarmac before walking up the stairs to his plane, stumbling several times as winds whipped his clothing.
About 200 people from Brooklyn and Queens, selected by a church lottery, waved Vatican flags, clapped and cheered for the pope at Kennedy. "We love you, Pope Francis!" one woman shouted.
Bishop William Murphy of the Rockville Centre Diocese and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese were there, along with four auxiliary bishops from Brooklyn and six nuns from the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará in Borough Park.
The nuns gave the pope a bouquet of white roses in honor of his devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux -- who is sometimes called the "Little Flower" -- and a book with images from paintings on the ceiling of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights.
Frances DeLuca, 60, a Bellmore resident who has been the principal for 19 years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary school in South Ozone Park, Queens, said teachers and students had been praying for weeks.
The Diocese of Brooklyn had sent to the school a Francis doll that was passed from classroom to classroom, she said. "The children got to hold it, got to pray for him," she said.
Five-year-old Riley Galante of Mineola, a student at St. Aidan School in Williston Park, clutched a picture of the pope she had been coloring.
Dolan stopped to admire the coloring. "Wow! What'd you make? Did you do that yourself?" he asked. Riley smiled and nodded.
Retired NYPD Officer Pat Fazio, 50, now a Commack fire commissioner, said he "never felt a connection to a pope the way I do with this guy.
"I think I speak for all the Catholics. . . . He's real. He just speaks well and he's point on. I think he's really brought the church a long way in the short time he's been pope."
With William Murphy