Pope Francis—the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and one of the most influential world leaders—is coming to Philadelphia.
The Holy Father will arrive in Philadelphia Sept. 26 for the World Meeting of Families, a triennial event organized by the Vatican. He’ll celebrate Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, and he’ll visit St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood along with Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, a prison in the Holmesburg section of Northeast Philadelphia
But the pontiff’s looming arrival means the city will face road closures, delays in government services, restricted public transportation and block-wide swaths of Center City behind fences and metal detectors. As many as 1.5 million people could arrive to Philly by the time of the visit.
Temple, for its part, has elected to cancel all classes scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25 and has scheduled a host of events on Main Campus catered to students.
“We want to do this because we might be a bit penned in,” President Theobald told The Temple News in an August interview. He will stay on Main Campus this weekend.
Local and even national media have covered the upcoming papal visit almost nonstop since it was announced, mostly focusing on security and road closures. But in more than a dozen interviews this week, The Temple News sought to ask: How is the visit affecting Temple University and the people associated with it?
A religious history
Much has changed since the last papal visit to Philadelphia, when Pope John Paul II stayed here for two days in October 1979. Marvin Wachman was the university president at the time; Frank Rizzo the mayor.
With some persuasion from Cardinal John Krol, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, John Paul II arrived Oct. 3, a Wednesday, one stop among visits to five other cities: Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa.
Father Shaun Mahoney, director of Temple’s Newman Center but then a student at Harvard, saw Pope John Paul II when he visited Boston.
“He was a fairly new Pope at that time,” said Angela Indik, a senior American studies major who created an exhibit at the Philadelphia City Archives on the 1979 visit.
“People were saying, ‘Maybe he’ll change things with the church,’” Indik added. “He thought this Mass was very important to emphasize the values he taught”—which included opposition of abortion and capital punishment.
James Hilty, a former history professor who wrote a book on the university’s history, was teaching history and serving as an associate dean of graduate studies when the Polish pontiff arrived.
“I remember going to a conference and mentioning that Temple University was the largest Catholic university in the state of Pennsylvania,” Hilty said. “[The visit] had, in those days, a more direct impact on the students themselves and I’m sure the students felt connected to the Pope’s visit.”
The Temple News—then a daily newspaper—reported that week that several students cut class to see the Pope celebrate Mass, leaving campus “practically deserted,” psychology professor David Goldstein said.
At the Mass, one police official told staff writer William McGarry the crowd was the largest crowd the city had ever seen in a small area.
“The closest thing is when the Flyers won the [Stanley] Cup two years in a row, but then, they were all spread up and down Broad Street,” he said.
“There’s a lot of people, and more coming all the time,” a man on 19th Street quipped to McGarry. “But, you know Catholics. They’re probably multiplying at the end of the line.”
Biology professor Thomas Hanson told staff writer Connie O’Kane that about 20 percent of his class would skip class to attend the papal Mass.
“It will be about the same as it was for the Jewish holidays,” Hanson said. “There is an argument for dismissing classes.”
Professors were advised to forgive any absences as a religious excuse.
For Mahoney, the papal visit isn’t just about getting to see Pope Francis.
“Certainly, at one level, we’d all like to see the Pope and get close to him,” he said. “I’ve said to the students here that we may or may not have a close spot in engaging with the Pope, but regardless, just the coming together of all these people and the enthusiasm and the opportunity interact with students from all different campuses, that’s going to be a rich experience in and of itself.”
Mahoney is the leader of Temple’s official Catholic church on campus, which will be busier than usual during the World Meeting of Families and papal visit weekend.
The Newman Center will accommodate 50-70 student guests from Harvard, the University of Rochester, Columbia University, New York University and Vanderbilt University, along with focus missionary students from several other campuses across the country.
“Within the past three weeks, it’s been more intense with the calls,” he said. “It’s trying to narrow down how many are you expecting, so I think we have a reasonable number that should be able to be accommodated in this building.”
“For our students, it will be good to just intermingle with them,” Mahoney added. “They’ll get a chance to talk to students from other schools.”
Mahoney will celebrate Mass at 4 p.m. Saturday for those who choose to stay on Main Campus. Students from the Newman Center will leave at about 2 p.m. for the Festival of Families.
The group plans to leave about 7 a.m. Sunday for the papal Mass.
“The thought is by going down early, you can get a decent spot, and if we view it as a pilgrimage experience, of being with all these people, it could be a really fun day,” he said.
Even for those who aren’t typically involved with the Newman Center, Mahoney said all are welcome to join in Saturday and Sunday.
As Philadelphia braces for an unprecedented number of people who will be pouring into the city ahead of the papal visit, professors and students are trying to find alternate routes as they commute to Main Campus and the Center City Campus.
The Secret Service has implemented perimeters around the city that will only permit cars in certain areas, and the restrictions on cars mean many attendees will walk at least a mile to the papal Mass and other Parkway festivities. SEPTA has also closed several of its subway stops and bus routes for that weekend.
Although the university announced earlier this semester it will be closed Friday, students still believe it will be chaotic until next Monday as they attend classes in Center City.
“I have class in Center City on Monday, so I am actually debating whether I’ll take the subway down or if I am actually going to be walking down here because it’s going to be that packed and that crowded,” said senior journalism major Nathan Grubel, of Allentown.
Adam Brunner, director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute—a program that offers non-credit classes to people older than 50 at the Center City Campus—said the program had already planned to close today and tomorrow for Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday.
“We are closing on Thursday because we anticipate traffic in the city being too difficult for our members to come to the program,” Burell said.
OLLI will not open Monday because SEPTA will not resume its regular schedule until noon, which will create issues for those going to the program.
Although many students and professors are preparing for more than 1 million visitors, there are some professors who are not concerned.
“I think it would be overkill to think about something like canceling class on Wednesday,” said Doron Taussig, a professor in the media studies and production department. “I will be a little more forgiving for latenesses.”
In a memo emailed Sept. 14, students and faculty were advised of the adjustments being made to on-campus parking in preparation for the influx of visitors during the papal visit. The memo detailed the re-assignment of overnight student parking from the Liacouras Garage to the Montgomery Garage, as well as the possibility of those with monthly and semester parking being reassigned to alternate locations. Additionally, essential personnel are being moved to the Bell Garage.
Public parking will also be available on both Main Campus and the Health Sciences Campus. With the Erie and Cecil B. Moore stations among the reduced stops available during the Pope’s visit, Sarah Powell, director of emergency management, hopes opening public Temple lots near these locations will put less pressure on the surrounding residential area.
“We want to know we’re taking care of the community, to know we’re doing everything we can to absorb that impact,” Powell said of the decision.
Parking rates for the public will be increased to $20, which Powell anticipates as cheaper than other lots which may be open in the city during the visit. The $3 increase is to cover the cost of overtime security personnel needed to monitor the parking areas.
Powell confirmed Temple plans to open the Liacouras Center as a papal rest stop, opening restrooms and parking, which is advantageous due to its proximity to the subway.
The expanded subway service SEPTA is now offering takes a burden off the Cecil B. Moore station and Broad Street as a whole, but even with those adjustments, Powell still wants Temple to be ready to welcome the original volume of visitors. The weekend of Sept. 25-27 is a “dynamic situation,” she said.
“We plan for the highest impact so we’re prepared either way,” Powell said.
From an operational sense, many of Temple’s facilities will remain open Friday despite classes being cancelled. The TECH Center, Paley Library and Campus Recreation will be open throughout the weekend. Tuttleman Counseling Services will open under normal operating hours Friday, and under limited hours Saturday.
Student Health Services will also remain open Friday and Saturday. The Student Center will remain open under normal operating hours, but the bookstore and Food Court will be closed.
Campus Safety Services, Facilities Management and Dining Services will also remain operational. Temple’s Center City Campus will be closed Friday and have restricted access during the weekend.
John Paul II’s final stop before departing from Philadelphia was at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, on Franklin Street near Brown. UCC and the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, on 5th Street near Girard Avenue are just two of the Catholic churches in the city that have expanded services in preparation for the visit.
“We have special services, divine liturgies, scheduled for all next week,” said Rev. John Fields, the Ukrainian church’s director of communications. “People come here for tours, masses, and meditation. … We even have a Ukrainian family that’s involved in greeting the Pope.”
The Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, Stefan Soroka, is also scheduled to celebrate multiple masses at the World Meeting of Families, as well as accompany the Pope during his visit to the city.
“We expect 800 people to attend our special mass for persons with disabilities,” said Sister Joanne Manns, MPF, the Shrine Coordinator at St. John Neumann. She expects several thousand will visit the shrine.
Manns said the church will provide a second special mass called the Catholic Parent Revival. The prayer service is one that criss-crosses the country to revive faith in parents and grandparents.
“We have lots of people and pilgrims coming to our mass at the tomb and 40 groups that reserved a tour of the shrine for Wednesday through Saturday,” Manns said.
The building itself recently went through major renovations that refurbished the floor, benches, and columns and added five new stained-glass windows, several confessionals, and made the shrine more wheelchair accessible.
The shrine also added a second gift shop, where papal gifts will be featured, including a flag and a commemorative coin with Pope Francis on one side and St. John Neumann on the other.
Manns said every parishioner had purchased tickets to see the Pope’s mass.
“Many people love this Pope,” she said. “I think he’ll touch many hearts of Catholic and non-Catholic alike. It’s going to make a big impression.”
From Friday until Sunday students can attend one of six free showings of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” at The Reel in the Student Center. The two free showings each day will be held at 7 and 10 p.m.
Students can also attend the weekly Free Food and Fun Friday, held from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Student Center’s Atrium. HootaThon, Temple’s annual dance marathon, will be hosting the event with music, games, trivia and prizes.
Veronica Moore, associate director of Student Activities, said Free Food and Fun Fridays typically don’t happen over holiday breaks or with larger events on campus.
“The goal is to allow for students who have the option and want to stay on campus the opportunity to do so,” Moore said. “It’s going to be really busy in Philadelphia, it’s going to be very hard to get around. So we wanted to make sure that we gave students the option and make sure that they knew they had something to do on campus … if they did not want to go out into the city or chose to stay here.”
For Saturday, Student Activities has also prepared a repeat of the Bingo Bonanza held during Welcome Week, and President Theobald will grill free food for students in the Founder’s Garden starting at 4 p.m.
A special lecture from the mayor of Rome, Ignazio R. Marino, will also be held Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Temple Performing Arts Center as part of the Fall Provost Lecture Series.
Marino, a world-renowned transplant surgeon who practiced for four years in Philadelphia at Thomas Jefferson University, will speak about his transition from medicine to politics and will later participate in events with Pope Francis during his visit.
Then versus now
Of all the differences between Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979 and Pope Francis’ upcoming visit this weekend, Hilty said one aspect has changed dramatically: security.
“1979 was just different in terms of security,” Hilty said. “It was only two years later the Pope was shot, and things began to change.”
He said in 1979, students didn’t need identification to enter residence halls—a practice that wasn’t implemented until the late 1980s, he said.
The security of this week’s events is much more intense, he added.
“I used to take the regional rail out,” he said. “I don’t recall any special restrictions or prohibitions. Now I look at the paper and I see those zones of restricted access. I can see why Temple now has to take some extra precautions and probably shut down. There’s just a different approach now.”
A lot of that has to do with the difference in the length of each visit, Hilty said. Pope John Paul II’s visit wasn’t part of a gathering. This time around, the World Meeting of Families is in part meant to show the strength of the Catholic Church, he said.
There’s also a distinct difference between how Pope Francis handles the job versus how Pope John Paul II did, Hilty said.
“Consider Francis’ statements about the environment, political and religious freedom and immigration problems,” he said. “All of these things are an active part of a papal agenda who’s essentially very social-orientated. … This Pope is connected to the world, and that then connects Philadelphia to the world.”
The Temple News can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 215.204.7419 or on Twitter @TheTempleNews.
Reported by Joseph Brandt, Steve Bohnel, Albert Hong, Danielle Nelson, Olivia Wright and Julia Christie.