Pope Francis’ widely anticipated trip to Philadelphia is quickly approaching, and every day more details are released about what the city’s residents and visitors can expect from the papal visit. The Pope will be in town from September 26th to the 27th for the World Meeting of Families, an international meeting of Catholics that takes place in a different world city every three years; but most notably, the Pope will make a public appearance on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during which he will hold mass on Sunday, September 27th.
With an estimated 2 million people expected to travel to Philly for the weekend, the papal visit will likely temporarily make Philadelphia the third largest city in the country, and Mayor Nutter has said that the Pope’s mass on the Parkway could even be the second or third largest event in American history. The last time a pope came to Philadelphia, in 1979, when Pope John Paul II held mass at Logan Square, the crowd was estimated to be between 1.2 and 2 million people, and during that visit the Pope also held masses in Chicago and New York City. While Pope Francis is also traveling to New York City and Washington, D.C. during his visit in September, he will only be appearing in public in Philadelphia. This, combined with Pope Francis wide popularity and friendly, likable reputation, has made some journalists and officials speculate that the crowd in Philadelphia could possibly be much larger than the estimated 2 million.
Needless to say, with Philadelphia’s population temporarily doubling in size, transportation around the city during the papal visit will be a challenge. City officials have strongly recommended that anyone traveling into or around Philadelphia during the papal visit travel by foot or by train, as car traffic will be completely gridlocked on most highways, and will likely be completely prohibited in many areas around the city. It’s lucky that Philadelphia is such a walkable city, since Mayor Nutter recently told reporters that anyone in the city should expect to walk two to three miles at a time between rail stops. Philly’s recently-launched bike share program, Indego, is reportedly considering installing additional bikes and stations across Philadelphia ahead of the Pope’s visit.
SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation authority, has announced that 251 of its 282 rail stations (including all subway, trolley, and regional rail lines) will be closed during the papal visit. Operational trains will load passengers at one of 31 pre-designated stations around the Philadelphia metro area (see map below) and will continue directly to yet to be announced drop-off locations in Center City. SEPTA will sell special $10.00, 3-day rail passes before the papal visit for use on trolley and subway lines, and Regional Rail will only be available to passengers who pre-purchase a special event pass, with limited availability.
This map from SEPTA shows the operational pick-up subway, regional rail, and trolley stations for the Papal visit. These stations will only be picking up passengers, and drop off stations in Center City will be announced at a later date.
A topic for Pope Francis’ mass on the Parkway hasn’t been announced, but the Pope has been a liberal reformer and champion of the poor and marginalized since his papal tenure began in 2013, and recently spoke out in favor of combating global climate change. Francis has favored a humble and simple lifestyle compared to some of his predecessors, choosing to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse at The Vatican rather than in the Apostolic Palace, and dressing in simple white vestments instead of the ornate dress of past popes. The first ever Jesuit pope and the first non-European pope since Pope Gregory III in 741 AD, Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and worked as a chemist and nightclub bouncer before becoming a priest in 1969. His humility, unconventional background and support for the poor have made him extremely popular around the world among many Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Further details and information will be released closer to the date of the papal visit. For more information, click here.
What: The Papal visit to Philadelphia
When: September 26th to 27th, 2015
Where: Across the city, but Pope Francis will hold mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.