Questions Greet Papal Ticketing Scheme

Organizers of Pope Francis‘ visit to Philadelphia found themselves on defense this week — again — after the announcement that tickets will be required to access large parts of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and area around Independence Hall during his appearance at those locations.

Until this week, there’d been no public indication that the events would be ticketed.

“We had always predicated some limited ticketing, and as we worked through security arrangements and plans were being made final, we knew how the Parkways was going to be laid out. For security reasons and crowd management, we have ticketed areas,” Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families, told 6ABC.

How does ticketing aid safety? “You’d have to talk to a crowd management expert about that, but in certain areas you don’t want huge crowds,” she said. “You have to be able to limit the number of people in crowds.”

But officials on Thursday said the pope would parade up and down the parkway, beyond the ticketed areas, so that everybody who attends the event will get a chance to see him, if only briefly.  “Francis’ parade route on Sept. 26 will take him from Eakins Oval down the Parkway, around City Hall, and back to the Art Museum steps before his evening appearance at the Festival of Families, Farrell said,” the Inquirer reported. 

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Wanted: Extras for a #PopeInPhilly Video

Pope Francis | Photo by the AP

Pope Francis | Photo by the AP

Some Philadelphians have been, um, not exactly bubbly about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to the city this month.

Visit Philadelphia, the city’s tourism agency, is creating a video aimed at pumping people up about the event.

“Our focus is mainly to create excitement around the visit,” said Visit Philadelphia’s Courtney Smyth, “and to help calm everyone’s nerves and show them that this will be a great, historical event.”

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RiverLink Ferry to Offer Service for Pope Visit

Courtesy the Delaware River Waterfront Corp.

Courtesy the Delaware River Waterfront Corp.

There will be an easier way to cross the Delaware River during the weekend of the pope’s visit.

Instead of walking across the Ben Franklin Bridge, the RiverLink Ferry System will provide quick trips across the river on both days of the visit, for just $7 a ride. Two tickets must be purchased in advance — one from Philly to Camden, the other from Camden to Philly, both tickets for specific times — to participate. No walk-ups will be allowed; all tickets for the weekend will be pre-sold online. Read more »

Pope Francis Says Priests Can Forgive Abortion


Well, this pope keeps defying expectations, doesn’t he?

The Vatican announced today that priests will be allowed to forgive abortions during the upcoming “Jubilee Year” starting December 8th. Normally, abortion is considered a grave sin that can be absolved only by senior church figures.  The announcement comes just weeks before Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia and an American church that is more divided over issues like gay rights and abortion than doctrine might suggest.

Pope Francis made clear in his order that the church remains committed to its anti-abortion stance, and said that forgiveness will be offered only to those women “who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” Read more »

5 Logistics Lessons Pope Visit Organizers Can Learn From the Gospels

Pope Francis, giulio napolitano / | Archbishop Chaput | Jeff Fusco

Pope Francis, giulio napolitano / | Archbishop Chaput | Jeff Fusco

You can’t blame Archbishop Charles Chaput for trying. With the pope’s visit drawing near and Philadelphians still in a state of high-fret over the situation, Chaput over the weekend attempted to calm the masses in an op-ed in the Inquirer.

“This is a moment of grace. Memories will be made. The World Meeting of Families will be spectacular. Nothing can stop that except our own unwillingness to take part in something extraordinary,” he wrote.

Sounds great! Only problem is, the next paragraph was this:

“Or to put it another way: Nowhere in Scripture do we find Mary, Joseph or Jesus worrying about security, transportation, or logistics.” 

Well, true — but then, if you’re the Son of God, empowered to heal the sick, turn water into wine, and make the dead walk again, logistics aren’t always necessity. They’re somewhat more important for us mere humans.  In fact, you can argue that some of the most impressive miracles of Jesus’ ministry — the stuff we’re talking about 2,000 years later — happened precisely because nobody thought ahead about critical moments. Here are five logistical lessons for big events, all taken from the Gospels: Read more »

SEPTA Offers Optimism, Map for Pope’s Visit


“Nothing gets you closer to the pope than SEPTA.”

Those were the exact words of SEPTA general manager Joseph M. Casey during a Thursday briefing, and he backed it up with some stats. He said all of SEPTA’s dropoff locations were within a 2-mile walk of what’s now being called the “Francis Festival Grounds.” Pope Francis arrives here for the end of the World Meeting of Families on September 26th and 27th.

“None of these distances are marathon walks,” Casey said. “When you exit 30th Street [Station], you can actually see the Art Museum… we hope you use SEPTA to see the pope.” The longest

Casey also said there are still more than 100,000 Regional Rail passes available available for $10. They are currently on sale at departure stations. Casey said that “there’s plenty of capacity out there.” Norristown High-Speed Line passes are available at 69th Street Terminal. Read more »

Catholic Org: Pope Visit Being Organized by Pro-Choice Politicians

From the Lepanto Institute's report on ties between the World Meeting of Families and Planned Parenthood.

From the Lepanto Institute’s report on ties between the World Meeting of Families and Planned Parenthood.

A key leader for the World Meeting of Families has come under attack from a conservative Catholic “investigative group” that says he donated campaign funds to pro-abortion candidates.

The Lepanto Institute said Robert J. Ciaruffoli, currently listed as chairman (but sometimes listed as president) of WMOF’s board of directors, has, in various years, given campaign donations to Allyson Schwartz, Chaka Fattah, Bob Brady, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson — all pro-choice Democrats. (The donations can be affirmed at the Federal Election Commission website.) The donation to Schwartz, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic before her stint in Congress, was singled out for criticism.

“The Church simply can’t afford to have event leaders so cozy with Planned Parenthood’s political cheerleaders,” said Michael Hichborn, the Virginia-based Lepanto Institute’s president. He sent the story out to reporters with the headline: “President of World Meeting of Families Funded Planned Parenthood Director’s Political Campaign.”

Ciaruffoli did not respond to a call and email for comment. Read more »

Most Americans Completely Oblivious to Pope’s Philly Visit

Gabriel Sozzi/Wikimedia Commons

Gabriel Sozzi/Wikimedia Commons

Yes, the city of Philadelphia has been a wee bit stressed lately about the impending visit of Pope Francis. It may not surprise you to find out the rest of the country isn’t so worked up — hey, they’re not hosting — but it is interesting to note that most Americans simply have no idea that he’s coming. At all.

A survey released today by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that 52 percent of Americans — a majority! — “have heard nothing about the pope’s upcoming visit to the U.S.” About a third of Catholics had no idea. (Henceforth, they will be referred to as: “Bad Catholics.”)

The survey touched on other issues affecting the church, including some that might have some resonance locally. Some highlights: Read more »

Amtrak Announces Pope Plan: Beefed-Up Service, Reservations Required

Amtrak | Shutterstock. Pope Francis | giulio napolitano /

Amtrak | Shutterstock. Pope Francis | giulio napolitano /

Amtrak is beefing up its service into Philadelphia for the pope’s visit, the agency said Friday, but there will also be temporary restrictions on travel, and the ripple effect is expected to be felt throughout the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington D.C..

Also, they’re closing the bathrooms at 30th Street Station that weekend. (Don’t worry: There’ll be some portable facilities positioned outside.)

According to Amtrak: Read more »

Buses and RVs Will Be Allowed on Restricted Roads During Pope Visit

go ground

The website for the “Go Ground” program.

Buses, RVs and other multi-passenger vehicles will be allowed to access restricted roadways during the pope’s visit next month, transportation officials said Wednesday afternoon.

Those vehicles will have to be registered ahead of time for clearance by Homeland Security, but authorities say the “Go Ground” program should help ease travel into and out of Philadelphia during the big weekend, particularly along I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, which will otherwise be largely closed to traffic.

“We are pleased to accommodate the anticipated domestic travelers making plans to charter buses in preparation of Pope Francis’ visit,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in a statement.  Read more »

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