“I don’t get in awe of many people. I think I’ll get awed by the pope,” Walsh told the press this week at Boston City Hall.
The mayor said he has seen a Pope before, in 1979, when the then 12-year-old Walsh stood outside St. Margaret’s Church in Dorchester for Pope John Paul II’s visit.
He said, “I saw the pope drive by me at about 55 miles per hour. He was late.”
Walsh admits he is honored to be part of this conference. His itinerary includes “an audience with the pontiff.”
“It’s incredible,” Walsh said.
“There’s not many people I’d get excited about. The pope is a person I’d be honored to meet.”Connemara, in the west of Ireland, says it was Catholic faith that helped him overcome cancer as a child and alcoholism as an adult. His faith is with him always, so much so that he often keeps a set of rosary beads in his pocket.
When Walsh was a child he was diagnosed with cancer and given two months to live. His mother prayed that her son would be spared, vowing to take Walsh to holy shrines, including Knock and Our Lady of Lourdes, in France. When her son survived she kept her word.
Last year Walsh returned to Knock with his mother. During the trip special Masses dedicated to him were said in both of his parents' native parishes.
During his trip to Ireland last year he spent the weekend between Rosmuc and Carna, the two villages in the Irish speaking region of Connemara where his parents grew up. His parents emigrated separately from the region in the 1950s before meeting in the legendary dance halls of Dudley Street, Boston.
Walsh will bring two items to be blessed by the Pope – a his paternal grandmother’s prayer book, printed in 1916, and his maternal grandfather’s rosary beads.
Boston’s Irish Mayor will be accompanied to Rome next week by Eugene L. O’Flaherty, a longtime confidant Walsh tapped to serve as the city’s chief lawyer. O’Flaherty is the author of Boston’s new human trafficking law.
The conference is hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and is titled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities.” The Vatican is bringing together mayors, local administrators, and religious leaders from major cities around the world.
The main objective of the conference is for mayors to join with the religious leaders in asking the United Nations to declare human trafficking a crime against humanity.
They also want to “put moral pressure on the UN to make sure that the new Sustainable Development Goals” are approved with regard to climate change.
Attendees from the United States are scheduled to include Mayor Charlie Hales of Portland, OR; Mayor Sam Liccardo of San José, CA; Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle; Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco; Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis; Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans; and Mayor Matthew Appelbaum of Boulder, CO. Other leaders intending to be there include Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa of Mexico City, Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris, and Mayor Ignazio Marino of Rome.