The 20 Biggest Winners and Losers of Pope Francis in Philadelphia
Well, Philadelphia, other than some remaining cleanup, logistical issues, and the small matter of the city getting reimbursed for the many millions of your dollars that it spent, the Pope Francis weekend has finally come and gone. And now, there’s nothing left to do but bask in the eternal glow. Well, that and make some judgments about who won (other than the obvious: the pope) and who lost during this once-in-a-lifetime event.
We’ll start with the good news…
1. Philadelphia’s Image to the World
The city looked beautiful, the pilgrims reported that we were helpful, friendly, and kind, and the negativity was kept to a minimum. “I honestly don’t think I saw an angry person all weekend,” says Philly Mag editor-in-chief Tom McGrath. True, the visit wasn’t perfect — and some would still say that it was far from it — but as a public relations play for Philadelphia, we made a lot of new friends out of the outsiders. Well done.
2. Archbishop Chaput
Love him or hate him, the leader of the Philadelphia Archdiocese got plenty of time next to “rock star” Pope Francis and on the microphone. You may not agree with all (or any) of what Chaput had to say, but it’s hard to argue that he didn’t come off better than a lot of people might have hoped for. We’re not saying he was Matlock-charming, but the pope’s visit provided him a much needed image boost.
3. Police, Secret Service, National Guard
It’s true that some of the snapshots floating around on social media over the weekend might have made Philadelphia look like a police state — and we can debate whether the security measures were overkill (general consensus: they were) — but as for the personnel in place to keep things safe and orderly, they deserve medals. Everyone we’ve spoken with had only very positive things to say about the police, Secret Service, National Guard and the other security folks stationed downtown for the papal visit.
4. Channel 6
Fueled by anchor Jim Gardner, the local ABC news station delivered peerless and virtually non-stop coverage of the entire pope weekend. As for the other news stations, check the Losers section.
As Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein reported from the scene, Center City became a carless “urbanist utopia,” with people biking, jogging, playing football, picnicking and generally having an awesome time on our normally crammed and unfriendly streets. And Indego proved just how awesome it is for our town, setting ridership records all weekend long. Note to mayor-apparent Jim Kenney: We want this at least twice a year. Make it happen.
6. The Philadelphia Orchestra, Andrea Bocelli, Bobby Hill
Saturday night’s Festival of Families was a mixed bag. For now, we’ll talk about the positives. The Philadelphia Orchestra, under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, is a truly world-class aspect of our city, and we were lucky to have Andrea Bocelli join them for the solemnly gorgeous rendition of The Lord’s Prayer. And as for that “boy with the voice of an angel,” as all of the newscasts were referring to him, he has a name. It’s Bobby Hill, he’s a student at Central, and we expect great things from him in the future.
7. People Who Ventured Out
The city did a very good job at scaring locals away — much more on that later — but for those of you who ventured into the city, whether you could give two cents about the pope or not, we salute you. “There was a cool carnival vibe in the city,” says Philly Mag deputy editor and Rittenhouse resident Richard Rys. “It was like all of Center City was one big festival — people everywhere, no traffic, good vibes.”
8. Babies, the Sick, the Disabled
It was hard to hold back the tears as we saw Pope Francis taking the time to bless sick people, people with cerebral palsy, and all those babies. One Drexel Hill mom whose baby was blessed told us, “It felt like a saint holding your child.”
9. The Person Who Made the Call to Take Down the White Tent
In case you missed it on Sunday, in the hours leading up to the papal mass, a white tent was erected near the front, dead center, blocking the view of people who showed up many hours before to get a place on the Ben Franklin Parkway. It was said to be a VIP tent. Because we’re Philly, a “Move That Tent!” protest began, and some very astute person made the call to take down the tent, which turned out to be for the Philadelphia Orchestra. “Boneheaded idea to put it up in the first place,” says McGrath. “But it was cool that they fixed their mistake.”
10. The Pilgrims
They came, they saw, and they were so well-behaved. “I saw hundreds of thousands of people standing silently next to each other during the mass,” says Philly Mag senior writer Liz Spikol. “I’ve never seen anything like that in Philadelphia.” They also kept us thoroughly entertained, breaking out in songs in the middle of Broad Street and making Philadelphia a place that it had never been before. We talked to many of them — the Argentine family that drove 13,000 miles here in a VW bus and got to meet the pope and the San Diego kids that raised $7,500 at a lemonade stand to bring their family here, just to name two examples — and we were inspired by you all.
1. The Restaurants
It wasn’t ridiculous to imagine that with around a million people coming to see Pope Francis (and with original estimates as high as two million), that some of those people would avail themselves of Philadelphia’s incredible restaurants. But that wasn’t the case, and the restaurant scene was dead. Many Center City restaurants bought exponentially more food than they would for a normal weekend, and for the most part, it went unused.
2. City Hall
Remember those estimates of two million people that you made? Yeah, we could have done that. But then you scared people away with poorly orchestrated management of the whole thing in the early days, weeks and months of the campaign. Granted, the turnout was in no way abysmal, as Otterbein reported on Sunday afternoon, but had you handled this like a first-class city, it could have gone a whole lot better.
3. People Who Didn’t Venture Out
Yes, we know that it’s not all your fault, thanks to City Hall’s mishandling of things (see Losers: No. 2), but you really missed the chance to be a part of something special. As of Saturday mid-afternoon, Philly Mag’s Patrick Kerkstra explained that “it’s shockingly easy to get into Philly right now.” And you should have come.
4. Jim Gaffigan, Mark Wahlberg, Aretha Franklin
We have absolutely no idea whose cockamamie idea it was to have a comedian kick things off for Pope Francis, but it was a supremely dumb one. And it didn’t help that Gaffigan didn’t exactly do his best — or that he opened with a lazy and unfunny joke about Philly’s notorious Santa Claus incident.
As for host Mark Wahlberg, we get why he was chosen, and we don’t think the fact that he has a violent, criminal past should have precluded him from being there (hello, people, it’s called redemption), but he just wasn’t a good emcee, seeming nervous and like he was wondering what the heck was going on most of the time.
But Aretha Franklin outshone them all in terribleness. She wrecked “Amazing Grace,” she ignored the pope, and she seemed completely disinterested in being there. That’s why she should have stayed at home and watched it on TV and left it to someone more up to — and more excited about — the task. We guess Patti LaBelle was unavailable?
5. The Other Local News Stations
While CBS3 had their consumer reporter yukking it up with Pat Ciarrocchi, 6ABC’s Jim Gardner was having an in-depth chat with a, you know, actual Catholic priest. And both CBS3 and NBC10 ditched the papal festivities in favor of — are you ready for this? — golf and boxing, respectively. Way to go.
6. Priests With Cell Phones
We get it, it’s 2015, and everybody has a smartphone and everybody wants a photo of — or even better, a selfie with — the pope. But we were shocked on Saturday when we saw the privileged congregants at the private basilica mass whipping out their phones and snapping away. The heathen laypeople were one thing, but we caught more than a few priests and even a bishop or two doing the same. Lame.
7. Whoever Was In Charge of Those Security Checkpoints
All in all, things ran much smoother than expected, but we couldn’t imagine being one of those ticket-holding people who showed up at a checkpoint only to find it unexpectedly closed. There seem to have been plenty of people who didn’t get in as a result of problems with those checkpoints, and we can certainly understand their frustration.
8. Congressman Bob Brady
OK, so in case you missed this: After last week’s joint session in Washington, D.C., Congressman Bob Brady stole the pope’s water glass, and we challenged him to do the right thing: Auction off the glass, which Pope Francis touched and drank from, and turn over the proceeds to charity. Our readers became outraged, and in response, Brady’s spokesperson emailed us and called those readers “idiots.” And then, when Brady had the incredible chance to have a few words with the pope on the tarmac at the airport on Sunday night, he says he used this opportunity to say, “Thank you, Father. I’m a member of Congress and when you spoke at the Capitol, I don’t know if you heard or not, but I’m the one who took your glass of water.'” You get a personal audience with the pope and that’s what you say?
9. Civil Liberties
A beautiful event, yes, but the fact is that if you ever wanted to know what it would be like if martial law were declared in Philadelphia, we can’t imagine (and don’t want to imagine) a better example.
10. The Supermoon
Who did we miss?
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