“I can honestly say I will never forget waiting outside the door. I had been told that the pope would emerge soon. Then the doors opened and there stood the pope with one of his handlers. The pope had a smile on his face and we had a conversation in Spanish,” David Muir recounted his visit with Pope Francis. “I got a real sense that this pope wanted a chance to meet me before the camera. This was the first signal that he was indeed the people’s pope.”
On September 4 at 10 p.m. ET, ABC will air a one-hour special edition of “20/20.”Pope Francis held the first-ever televised virtual audience with Americans, a historic event moderated by “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir from the Vatican. Pope Francis listened to the stories of people while delivering his message to hundreds in Chicago, Los Angeles, and McAllen, Texas from the Vatican via satellite. The event will also be posted in its entirety in both English and Spanish on ABCNews.com.
“We wanted to do something more than interview. We wanted to find a way to connect this pope, who’s been called the people’s pope – we wanted to find a way to connect him with everyday Americans,” said Muir. “Our mission was to connect them on the eve of his historic appearance in the United States. The idea that the Vatican and the pope would give us time to take questions truly reflects him breaking the mold.”
During the interactive virtual audience, the pope spoke with students at the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, individuals from homeless shelters near Skid Row in Los Angeles, and immigrants at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church near the U.S. – Mexico border in McAllen. The pope wanted to have the opportunity to connect in a new way especially since he will be unable to visit these cities during his trip to the United States later this month. In an intimate moment, one teen with a rare skin disorder told the pope she sought music to get her through the bullying from others. Muir said the pope listened to the girl’s struggles and then responded to her in English. “We had never heard the Pope speak in English before. It was truly a singular moment when the Pope asked her to sing,” said Muir. Somehow the brave girl summoned the strength, found the words and sang.
Pope Francis is expected to travel to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia from September 22 to 27. The pope’s trip is set to include a meeting with President Obama at the White House, an address in front of a joint-meeting of Congress, an address at the U.N. General Assembly in New York and a multi-faith service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. All of the events are a first for any pope in history. The pope is then expected to end his visit in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families which is a global event held by the Catholic Church that focuses on strengthening family bonds. The event is estimated to have two million people attending the pope’s closing mass.
Many describe the pope as a radical and revolutionary despite the fact he hasn’t changed any church doctrine. However, as Muir states, he has changed the vision of the church and put into place the power of connecting to everyday people. “From what I have seen is a Pope who is determined to connect and take the conversation away from common culture wars to focus on the plight of the poor and everyday people who are trying to get by,” said Muir.