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Scarsdale photographer to document pope’s visit

By DEBRA BANERJEE
Joe Vericker
 

Corporate and special event photographer Joe Vericker of Scarsdale is used to getting shots of VIPs, but this week he has an extra special assignment. He’s been asked by the Archdiocese of New York to be the official photographer for the visit to Manhattan of His Holiness, Pope Francis. For Vericker, a longtime parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, the chance to document this historic visit is not only another feather in his professional cap, it is an honor and what he says will be a deeply felt spiritual experience.

This is not the first time Vericker has photographed the leader of the Catholic Church in New York. “This is my third pope,” Vericker told the Inquirer. He photographed Pope John Paul ll at a private event at the Vatican Mission to the U.N. in 1995. “I still get chills when I think about it,” he said. “I really felt his strong spiritual presence.”

He also spent three days in 2008 photographing Pope Benedict XVI in New York, including at Ground Zero and Yankee Stadium. “I had to pinch myself that I was on the altar at Yankee Stadium,” he said.

Working for the Archdiocese — he is not considered a member of the press corps — he has special credentials and clearance. Vericker will be, he said, what is described in police lingo as “a five-minute package.” That is, his NYPD escort will deliver him to each site five minutes before Pope Francis arrives.

Vericker got the call from Joe Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese, who said, “We want you to do this for us,” Vericker recalled. The Archdiocese had been a client of his photography business, PhotoBureau.

“Are you kidding me? Absolutely!” Vericker said. “It’s an honor to be so close to the pope.”

On Tuesday Vericker had an assignment in Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s office for the formal opening of the process for sainthood for the Rev. Paul Watson, founder of Graymoor and the Friars of the Atonement. “While I was down there I picked up my Secret Service credential for the papal visit, so I am good to go!” Vericker said.

The photographer said his experience with protocol and high-level diplomacy was an asset.

“You have to be well-dressed and know how to conduct yourself diplomatically. You have to stay out of sight and speak when spoken to.” During his assignment for Pope Benedict at Yankee Stadium, Vericker hid behind a potted plant on the altar and “popped up when I needed to.”

Vericker’s duties will begin when Pope Francis arrives in Manhattan Thursday evening, events that include a motorcade up Fifth Avenue to St. Patrick’s Cathedral followed by a prayer service. On Friday the pope will arrive at the United Nations and will address the General Assembly. He will hold a multireligious prayer service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and will visit Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem. Public events continue with a Mass at Madison Square Garden before the pope’s departure for Philadelphia on Saturday.

“Saturday morning I will collapse!” Vericker said.

Vericker and his wife Nancy, nee McCann, director of the School of Religion at IHM, have lived in Scarsdale since 2006, although Nancy grew up in Scarsdale. They are the parents of Elizabeth, 29, Joe Jr., 26, Molly, 23, a teacher’s aide at Fox Meadow School, and daughter Grace, 14, whom they adopted from China, a freshman at Scarsdale High School.

In addition to his corporate and special event work, Vericker has photographed seven U.S. presidents, Michael Jackson, Maria Sharapova, New York City mayors Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani, Bloomberg and DiBlasio, Muhammad Ali, James Gandolfini, Jane Fonda, former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Derek Jeter, Joe Namath, Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra, Donald Trump, Jennifer Lopez, Timothy Cardinal Dolan and many others.
In any spare time he enjoys boating, going to the beach and playing golf “although I hate to be outdriven by my 14-year-old daughter!”

During the last papal visit tickets became available at the last minute for his family to attend the Mass at Yankee Stadium. He is not sure there will be tickets this time. “I don’t expect them. If I do, great. I don’t ask for them.”

During Pope John Paul’s visit, when Vericker was in close quarters with the pope, he wanted to kneel down in front of him and offer his thanks, but the photographer didn’t want to shift the focus away from doing his duty.

When Pope Benedict visited, Vericker didn’t want to miss a second opportunity for a personal moment with the pontiff.

Coming down a hallway toward Vericker, Pope Benedict “looked at me, gave me a smile — he was like a German grandfather — extended his hand to me and I kissed his ring,” Vericker said.

“I said thank you for coming to New York, Holy Father.”



Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

 

SEPTEMBER 25, 2015