The city of Philadelphia has begun preparations for Pope Francis’ two-day visit in fall 2015. The World Meeting of the Families is the organization in charge of making the appropriate accommodations for the official visit. The group consists of the world’s largest Catholic gathering of the families every three years. With Philadelphia chosen as this year’s venue, the WMOF are now furiously busy assembling materials for the expected 1.5 million visitors who will come to see the pope speak on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September 26 and 27.
Donna Farrell, the executive director of the WMOF of Philadelphia commented on the pope’s specific itinerary in an email, “It is anticipated that the Holy Father will participate in the closing events of the eighth World Meeting of Families.”
“There are a wide variety of locations, beyond the Parkway, being evaluated for possible papal events, but the decision regarding Pope Francis’ itinerary lies solely with the Vatican. Rest assured, we will be ready to welcome him wherever he chooses to go,” Farell commented.
Among the list of things to prepare are two million Mass booklets in multiple languages, which must be designed and printed for the event, organize at least 7,000 volunteers with clean background checks and stock millions of Holy Communion wafers.
When Mayor Michael Nutter announced the pope’s visit November 2014 he expected large crowds. “This will be the largest event in the city’s modern history. The pope’s visit to Philly is something for all of us to be prayerful about and to be excited about,” Nutter said in a press conference.
Estimates made by the Philadelphia Convention Center and the Philadelphia Visitor’s Bureau have placed the amount of expected revenue the city will garner from the pope’s visit at about $417 million. Tourism sites like Visit Philadelphia began laying out itineraries months ago. Earlier this month on May 8, neighboring Montgomery County held an mini-expose with a papal theme during national tourism week that featured things for tourists to do in their area while staying in town for the pope’s visit. Officials marketed that the pope is expected to stay in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lower Merion.
The local church officials in the city are greatly anticipating the pope’s arrival and are making the necessary preparations and expecting a great many visitors to the city as well.
“A hallmark of Pope Francis’ ministry has been a genuine love for all people of good will and he has maintained a keen focus on the many diverse challenges that families face globally,” Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said. “I’ve loved and admired him since we first met at the Synod for the Americas in 1997. I know that the Holy Father’s charisma, presence and voice will electrify our gathering. Regardless of confessional differences, billions around the world have been drawn to this pope. Our gathering in Philadelphia is open to all who have a generous heart. It has the power to transform, in deeply positive ways, not just the spirit of Catholic life in our region but of our entire community. It will be a moment unlike any other
“As I’ve said many times before, Pope Francis’ presence will bring all of us — Catholic and non Catholic alike — together in tremendously unifying and healing ways. We now eagerly anticipate Pope Francis’ arrival in Philadelphia [in] September,” the archbishop continued.
Even the Philadelphia International Airport reports the replacement of carpets, chairs, lighting, signage and other expenditures in preparation for the pontiff’s visit as well as an increase in security. Philadelphia is experienced in holding events for crowds of one million-plus, however, the future event is unique not only in size but in the number of security organizations involved: the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, the Italian police force, the Swiss Guard, as well as city and state police.
“In terms of transportation, our team is dedicated to building a highly accommodating transportation plan for all visitors — and residents — within of the city of Philadelphia. We have been working closely with many regional authorities including SEPTA, Amtrak, NJ Transit, PATCO and the Philadelphia International Airport, among others, to ensure a convenient, enjoyable travel experience for all traveling to, and through, Philadelphia for this once-in-a-lifetime event,” Farrell commented.
The two-day event on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will be open and free to the public to attend. More information about the event is available on the WMOF website.