The Pope’s whirlwind visit to Philadelphia on September 26th and 27th is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for residents and visitors to the area – and not just for Catholics. The buzz in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and among all of the surrounding counties is already palpable.
While the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia won’t even last a full 48 hours, Philly is packing a lot into this short and historic papal visit. Whether or not you have tickets to one of the three main events, it really doesn’t matter, because the weekend of the Pope’s visit is going to be an epic papal party involving 4.6 square miles of Center City that will be closed to private vehicles. Philadelphia is expecting to host up to 2 million people within that boundary, making this weekend a massive event that you really don’t want to miss!
The Pope’s Philly Agenda
On Saturday morning, the Pope will arrive at Philadelphia International Airport and head to the Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul to deliver a private mass.
The excitement really begins at 4:45pm, however, when the Pope will arrive at Independence Mall via the Popemobile and do a loop around the area to greet crowds. He will then speak about religious freedom and immigration, delivering his speech from the podium that Abraham Lincoln used to deliver the Gettysburg Address.
At 5pm, a spectacular event will kick off on the Ben Franklin Parkway, where stars including Mark Wahlberg, Andrea Bocelli, Jim Gaffigan, and Aretha Franklin will perform in front of the Pope for the Festival of Families concert. The Pope will join the festivities beginning at 7:30pm.
On Sunday, the Pope will bid farewell to Philadelphia by delivering a public Papal Mass at 4pm on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Tickets To See the Pope
Those who want to attend the actual events in the designated zones will need tickets. Most tickets were reserved for faith-based organizations to distribute to their parishioners, but an additional 10,000 tickets were released to the public in mid-September, all of which were claimed within 30 seconds! Some of these are still available on the secondary market, such as on eBay
*Note that entering the controlled security areas for these events is expected to take several hours. Security checkpoints have strict rules: bikes, animals (other than service animals), and large bags will not be allowed, nor will glass containers, firearms, pepper spray, or any packages that cannot be searched.
Francis Festival Zone
The great news is that you really don’t need tickets to get the most out of the Pope’s visit.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Pope’s visit will be the so-called “Francis Festival Zone,” which will be closed to private vehicles starting on Friday night and lasting until early Monday morning. The zone’s boundaries run east to west from the Delaware River to 38th Street and north to south from Girard Avenue to South Street. This pedestrianized area will allow for hundreds of thousands of people to gather and experience these events together.
Forty Jumbotron screens will be placed at various locations around the festival grounds and will broadcast all of the Pope’s public events, and even some that will be closed to the public.
- At 9:30 am on Saturday, the Jumbotrons will show Pope Francis’ arrival at Philadelphia International Airport.
- Next will be the private Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 10:30 am.
- Then the public events beginning at 4:45 will be broadcast, turning all of Center City into a giant papal celebration!
- Of course, Sunday’s public Papal Mass will be broadcast as well.
Restaurants and stores within the zone’s boundaries are taking the opportunity to revel in the fun along with the rest of the public. Some restaurants are offering special menus and pricing; McGillin’s Bar
(adjacent to City Hall) will offer the “Popetini”, made with Limoncello. The wonderful Reading Terminal Market
will have extended hours and will no doubt pull out all the stops to give festival goers some incredible eats.
Check out the hashtag #OpenInPHL to find out which businesses will be open during the festival. There is even a contest for a free family trip to Rome – just post a photo of yourself and your family and friends on social media using the hashtags #OpenInPHL and #RomeContest, and you could be on your way to Italy!
Pope Memorabilia and Souvenirs
Once the weekend is over, you’re definitely going to want to preserve every moment and every memory. The World Meeting of Families can help you out there! They will offer several items such as the full color Pope Francis in America official keepsake book and a commemorative DVD, which will offer a behind the scenes look at the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia. T-shirts and other souvenirs are already on sale, some of which can be ordered via the links below.
All in all, the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia is going to be a historic event that you and your family will not want to miss!
A list of restaurants within the festival boundary that will be open: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/food_department/Restaurants-that-are-OpeninPHL-during-the-popes-visit.html#dEDlfSqFUPdeA2Ch.99
A list of stores within the festival boundary that will be open: http://www.phillymag.com/shoppist/2015/09/20/shopping-guide-philadelphia-pope-visit/
Cultural exhibits that will and will not be open during the Pope’s visit: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150916_Cultural_exhibits_opening_-_and_temporarily_closing_-_for_the_papal_visit.html
Some resources for t-shirts and souvenirs:
A list of items that are prohibited in ticketed areas: http://6abc.com/religion/prohibited-items-on-ben-franklin-parkway-during-papal-visit/968390/
World Meeting of Families commemorative items: http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/get-involved/dvd/