When Pope Francis was elected to lead the Catholic Church in 2013, it immediately became clear that he wasn’t into the pomp and circumstance that came with the position. He gave up the red shoes, ditched the formal luxury car, and chose not to live in the Apostolic Palace. Instead, Pope Francis opted for a modest two-room apartment next to the Vatican.
Here in New York, he’ll stay at a simple house during his first trip to the Big Apple this week. It just happens to be a five-story multi-million dollar townhouse on the Upper East Side.
PIX11 News spoke one-on-one with Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the permanent observer for the Vatican at the United Nations. Auza will be with Pope Francis for every step of his New York trip, including at the apartment on 72nd Street.
“It’s pretty plain and simple,” Auza said of the apartment. “The house itself is very elaborate.”
At a quick glance, the townhouse could blend right in with the others that line the street off of Madison Avenue. At a closer look, you can see the windows are mirrored for security purposes, preventing anyone from being able to see inside. Inside, the townhouse has it’s own chapel, which Auza said Pope Francis will use.
The doors have gates that are designed with the Holy See Coat of Arms.
“It is a well-appointed house. We have received it as a gift to the Pope,” says Archbishop Auza.
He’s referring to the home’s rich history. The townhouse was home to former New York City Mayor Hugh Grant. Grant’s son donated the house to the Archdiocese of New York in the 1970s, and they gave it as a gift to the United Nations.
Pope John Paul II stayed at that residence in 1979 during his first visit to the United States and again in 1995. Pope Benedict also stayed there in 2008.