In the past three decades the stars have shown brightly over Newark, with a succession of world-famous people or glamorous personalities who have made brief visits.
They have included almost all recent presidents, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Shah of Iran, a Dutch princess (later a queen), and a couple of lord mayors—one from Ireland and the other from Newark's namesake in England.
Pope John Paul II
While many presidents of the United States have visited our city, only one pope has ever come to Newark. Perhaps this is why some people were overwhelmed with news of John Paul II's trip to the city to elevate the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart to the status of a basilica. The pontiff arrived on the first leg of his fourth American tour at Newark International Airport on October 9, 1995, to a crowd of 2,000 cheering parochial school children and 800 dignitaries. They included President Clinton, Gov. Christie Whitman, former Governors Jim Florio and Brendan Byrne, Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bill Bradley, Newark Mayor Sharpe James and Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage.
Upon the Pope's arrival, Clinton said, 'All Americans are very, very happy to see you again. We Americans are a people of faith, expressed in many ways.' The Pope responded by praising America for its 'novel destiny' in the world, asking the United States to continue reaching out to the less fortunate. He also asked America to remain a place of refuge by being 'an example of justice and civil virtue, freedom fulfilled in goodness, at home and abroad.' The Pope also joked about bringing rain to relieve the region's debilitating drought. He and the President then traveled in separate motorcades along a closed Route 280. A five-mile long backup along the New Jersey Turnpike resulted. A crowd of several thousand stood outside the cathedral in gently falling rain, waiting for the two world leaders to arrive. The super-charged crowd roared its approval when they appeared. Hand-sewn welcoming signs along the side streets added color to the long-awaited event. A cheer went up as Clinton passed in his black limousine and as the Pope drove by in his white limo. Arms reaching for the Pope over the parade barriers looked like curling waves ready to burst onto the shoreline. Joyously, the cathedral's great bells rang out a welcome as the music of its massive Schantz organ was electronically broadcast to the crowd. Before the start of the 6 p.m. prayer service, the Pope and the President met again, after which Clinton waited inside the cathedral with other dignitaries, church leaders, clergy and members of the archdiocesan synod. Meanwhile, the Popemobile circled the cathedral. Shouts of 'Viva El Papa' could be heard as the Holy Father stopped to bless people in the crowd. For wheelchair-bound Alexis Lawson of Tonga, whose uncle had been a friend of the Pope, it was indeed a glorious occasion.
Precisely at 6 o'clock, John Paul II entered America's fourth-largest church, and every head turned in his direction. 'I come as a pilgrim of peace,' he said. 'This magnificent building stands in the heart of Newark as a powerful reminder of God's steadfast love for his people and a sign of faith in Christ, our hope of glory.' He then announced that Sacred Heart Cathedral henceforth would be known as a minor basilica. Major basilicas include St. Peter's in Rome and the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Minor basilicas include several Roman churches and approximately 30 churches in the United States. Only a pope can bestow this status. A beaming Archbishop of Newark Theodore McCarrick announced the news to the general public several hours later at a Mass at Giants Stadium. An umbrella-like staff of papal white and yellow, with its bell and coat of arms, at the front of the church to the left of the ambulatory altar steps informs all who enter that this sacred space is a Roman Catholic basilica one of the few worldwide.
The 14th Dalai Lama
In 1935, when the present Dalai Lama was born, the Newark Museum installed its first Tibetan Buddhist altar. On October 15, 1979, the Dalai Lama, revered by Tibetans as the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, visited the museum, touring its great Asian collections. Former museum director Samuel C. Miller and curator Valrae Reynolds escorted him as part of his 49-day tour of the United States. Stops also included the Lamaist Buddhist Monastery of America in Washington Township, Warren County, and three Buddhist temples in Howell Township, Monmouth County. While in Newark, he spoke in both Tibetan and English to a large crowd of guests, including students and professors of Buddhism, officials including Mayor Kenneth Gibson and New Jersey Secretary of State Donald Lan, and members of the National Tibetan Society. In his address he spoke of 'kindness as the bedrock of social behavior. Human values are being lost where there is a lack of recognition that everyone is like oneself.' He said he hadn't 'come to make converts, but to see how his system can make a contribution to society.' He also remarked on the 'openness and honesty of the American people.' The Dalai Lama's second Newark visit in 1981 was prompted by the return of more than 225 Tibetan objects from the Newark Museum collection that had been on national tour. After the spiritual leader was reacquainted with the institution's costumes, jewelry, weapons, banners, paintings and rare books relating to Tibetan Buddhism, a luncheon in his honor was held on the second floor of the Ballantine House. After lunch, the Dalai Lama granted a press conference. Many of his comments related to spiritual feelings. 'When we think about the meaning of religion and spiritual things, it is service of mankind, helping other people, with love, compassion and respect. We can't make politics as something separate. Politics, law, engineering, the scientific would all be included in religion.' The Dalai Lama's third trip to the city took place in September 1990 upon the completion of the multimillion-dollar renovation of the Newark Museum. In a private ceremony, the Tibetan altar was reinstalled by His Holiness. A crowd of more than 5,700 attended a series of lectures and programs. The deep ecumenical overtones of the event were emphasized by the attendance of the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and Newark Archbishop McCarrick, a Newark Museum trustee.
The Shah of Iran
In October 1947, the Shah of Iran toured the Newark Evening News headquarters building on Market Street. He came to inspect the operations of a modern American newspaper plant. The trip was arranged by former pressman Henry Suydam of Newark, who had met the monarch several times before working for the News. Suydam was granted a leave of absence from the paper at the request of the Iranian government to serve as an adviser for the trip. Prior to the Newark visit, the Shah spent time in Washington and New York. At the News, he was greeted by publisher Richard B. Scudder, editor Lloyd M. Felmly and Mayor Ralph Villani. He then visited the newspaper's composing room with its large linotype machines, the editor's office, where he saw a framed announcement of the D-Day invasion of France in 1944, and the editorial department and the wire rooms, decorated with American and Iranian flags. All the while the Shah puffed on a cigarette. In the building's sub-cellar, the pressroom, he pushed the button that started the giant presses rolling for the first edition of the day and watched as the completed newspaper flopped onto the shelf with a headline banner reading 'Welcome, Shah of Iran.' The Shah then received the key to the city as he thanked Scudder and his staff and Villani for a 'wonderful experience.'
In 1971, Crown Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, now Queen Beatrix, and her German-born husband, Prince Claus, quietly lunched at the Newark Museum, where they learned how well Newark had recovered from the devastating 1967 riots. As the heiress to the throne of the Netherlands, the princess noted that 'America is so much of the center of what is going on, and so is Newark. If you can solve your problems here, then perhaps, maybe, it can be done in other parts of the world.' But she found radically differing opinions among those she met. Some described Newark as a city of the future, one of much promise. Others condemned it, saying they were leaving as fast as possible. The royal couple slipped into Newark almost unnoticed and without fanfare, visiting various parts of town including the North Ward, where they spent an hour with Stephen Adubato, founder of the North Ward Center. The motorcade then went to several homes on Sixth Street and Third Avenue and visited the North Ward Club, where the couple sat in the back room sipping cokes and discussing local politics and race relations. The princess was described as 'conservatively stylish, with her plain buckle shoes, her blond hair swept back, and her only jewelry a diamond ring and a pearl brooch.' The prince wore a plain business suit with a handkerchief in the breast pocket. The day's events also included informal discussions with Junius Williams, director of the Newark Model City Program. Later, the couple flew by helicopter to Newark's watershed area in Passaic, Sussex and Morris counties and then took a short trip to the Cranbury home of Paul Ylvisaker, a state official who conceived the idea for the princess's visit. Following an afternoon at Princeton and dinner in Cranbury, the couple returned to New York City for the continuation of their American tour.
In 1966, 300-year-old Newark had its biggest birthday party ever, with the help of the business, commercial and historical communities. More than 200,000 observers came out for the Founders' Day parade from Lincoln to Washington Park, 10 deep in some places. Tons of confetti rained down from the office buildings at Broad and Market as more than 5,000 people took part with 150 floats, marching units and bands. The event started at noon with the cranking up of the local civil defense sirens and the ringing of church bells. The oldest vehicle in the line of march was the 1814 Phaeton coach that carried the Marquis de Lafayette here in his early 19th century visit. An 1851 Newark Fire Department hose cart also was part of the parade. Heading the reviewing stand at city hall were Mayor Hugh J. Addonizio and the Hon. William Kerr Bickerstaffe, lord mayor of Newark-on-Trent, England. The lord mayor's distinctive regalia stood out in the crowd. Bickerstaffe was dressed in an ermine-trimmed crimson robe with a white laced neck ruff, topped by a black Napoleonic hat – the robes of his office. During much of the celebration, the lord mayor was the center of activity as the representative of America's mother country. David Wiesen, a civil defense ham radio operator, never met the lord mayor but was responsible for keeping him in touch with the folks back home through his amateur radio operations and the local federal emergency broadcast system.
In May 1957, Robert Briscoe, lord mayor of Dublin, was granted an honorary Newark citizenship. In 12 hours, he made 36 speeches to Newark's Jewish and Irish communities. A Jew, he raised money for the Essex County United Jewish Appeal, well over a million dollars for the rescue of refugees from Eastern Europe and North Africa. At his luncheon at the Newark Museum he called out greetings in Gaelic and Hebrew to the 150 guests. The lord mayor joked with Mayor Leo J. Carlin that he might want to do a six-month exchange, suggesting that Carlin take over Dublin and he take Newark. 'I won't mind at all, because your exchequer is much fatter than ours,' he said. At the museum he viewed a new exhibition, 'Art and Judaism Past and Present' and told an inquirer that he had never kissed the Blarney Stone. While he almost lost his voice by the end of the two-day visit, he insisted, 'Don't worry about my voice. I'll find it quick enough the minute somebody annoys me.' Minutes later his train left for Washington, D.C., and another American adventure.