Questions Greet Papal Ticketing Scheme

Organizers: "You have to be able to limit the number of people in crowds."

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. 

It had seemed like the crowds were limiting themselves, as Fox News noted: “The ticketing announcement comes just a week after a new marketing campaign, ‘I’ll Be There,’ was unveiled to encourage attendance at the papal events, driven in part by fears that months of discussions about tight security restrictions had scared many people away from attending. Officials have said hotel bookings, rail pass purchases and charter bus signups have all been running lower than expected.”

At the Washington Post, Michael Bayer grumbled: “The public Mass to conclude the World Meeting of Families was to be the one event where everyone, the rest of us, could have an equal chance to see the Holy Father. If we make the trek from Iowa, we will still be able to say we were there, but struggling to find a Jumbotron in Fishtown just doesn’t have the same resonance as saying we made it onto the Parkway.

NBC Philadelphia breaks down ticket availability like this:

The 30,000 general admission tickets for Papal events — including getting into the Parkway above 20th Street — will become available next week and divvied up as follows:

  • 10K tickets for Immigration Speech at Independence Hall — these become available Tuesday, Sept. 8 on a first come, first get basis.
  • 10K tickets for Saturday’s Festival of Families — these become available Wednesday, Sept. 9 on a first come, first get basis.
  • 10K tickets for Sunday’s Papal Mass — also available Wednesday to the first people who submit online requests.

The pope’s visit is scheduled for September 26th and 27th.