Former journalist recalls working for Pope Paul VI at Paul’s Run gathering

Edward Eisen wrote about Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI.

Edward Eisen described himself as a “newspaper guy” in the early 1970s when he was asked to handle public relations for Pope Paul VI’s 1976 visit to Philadelphia.

It was not a call he might have expected, he told a small gathering at the Paul’s Run retirement community on Feb. 19. He was used to asking the questions as a journalist, not writing press releases. Besides, he’s Jewish and didn’t really know much about Catholicism.

“I didn’t even know what the word catechism meant,” he said.

So how did a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, and later from Longshore Avenue in Northeast Philly, wind up writing about Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI?

After a long career in journalism, Eisen, 77, left The Philadelphia Inquirer, and joined the Gray and Rogers ad agency. The company had just won the contract to promote the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, which was to be held in Philadelphia in 1976.

His bosses tapped him to head up all the publicity for the event. The Eucharistic Congress brought more than a million people to the city in August 1976. Events were at the Spectrum and the old 34th Street Civic Center. There was a procession on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a Mass at John F. Kennedy Stadium and a benediction on the steps of the Art Museum.

Mother Teresa was one of the featured speakers as was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the man who would become Pope John Paul II.

Did Eisen ever meet his client, Pope Paul VI?

Nope. The closest the pope’s Jewish PR guy got, he said, was from the press box at Veterans Stadium. ••