‘People’s Pope’ won’t see many faithful from Philly stage

By Joyce Duriga

PHILADELPHIA — The “People’s Pope” won’t be able to see many people from the stage when he attends the Festival of Families Saturday and celebrates Mass Sunday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia.


Side view of stage and white chairs. (Photo by Joyce Duriga)

More than 1.5 million people are expected to attend the events, which mark the official end of the World Meeting of Families, but because of obstructed viewing only about 2,000 or so will be able to actually see the stage from where they are sitting. Everyone else will view the events on Jumbotrons, and that includes those with coveted tickets.

The lucky people sitting in the white, wooden chairs in the area in front of the stage will have a clear view of the stage, as will the media on risers behind them. After that only the top of the stage is viewable from most of the parkway.

The stage is set up between Eakins Oval and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Beautiful trees line the parkway from the oval to 20th Street where the ticketed area ends but those trees also make for limiting viewing.


View of media risers. (Photo by Joyce Duriga)

Organizers assure everyone they will be able to view the events on many Jumbotrons set up along the 1.1 mile-area set up for the events. But people hoping for unobstructed viewing like that at the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 or Toronto in 2002 will be disappointed.

Those in the non-ticketed areas will be able to see the top of the stage as well but won’t be able to see much more except on the Jumbotrons. The non-ticketed viewing areas are also limited to the sides of the parkway — like it was for Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979 — so the popemobile can make its way through the parkway for the parade.

People coming to Philadelphia from out of town and from the city itself hoping to see Pope Francis in the flesh will be able to see him during a parade up the parkway on each day.

Other than that, well, there are always the Jumbotrons.

View from 20th Street. (Photo by Joyce Duriga)

View from 20th Street. (Photo by Joyce Duriga)

After hours of waiting, New Yorkers see pope in Central Park

Pope Francis rides in a motorcade in New York's Central Park Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Richard Drew, pool)

Pope Francis rides in a motorcade in New York’s Central Park Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Richard Drew, pool)

By Seth T. Gonzales

NEW YORK — It was a festive atmosphere in Central Park as 80,000 ticketed people lined police barricades to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis Sept. 25.

After visiting with third- and fourth-grade students at Our Lady of Angels Catholic School in Harlem, the pontiff made his way through Central Park en route to Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Crowds wait for Pope Francis’ motorcade to appear while a New York City police officer patrols the area on Sept. 25. Ticket-holders stood for hours just to get a glimpse of the pontiff as he made his way towards Madison Square Garden. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Crowds wait for Pope Francis’ motorcade to appear while a New York City police officer patrols the area on Sept. 25. Ticket-holders stood for hours just to get a glimpse of the pontiff as he made his way towards Madison Square Garden. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

According to news reports, security officials had closed more than 30 blocks along Central Park West at 5 a.m. on Friday. Vendors sold t-shirts, buttons and miniature Vatican flags as those with tickets lined up outside the park and were admitted only after being screened.

According to the Central Park Conservancy’s Twitter account, they had until 3 p.m. to get inside before the gates were closed.

Inside, people clapped, chanted and sang as they eagerly awaited the pontiff.

As the wait continued, some began suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion as paramedics began removing people from the park.

At around 5 p.m., Pope Francis entered his popemobile and began his way through Central Park amid a throng of cheers, flags and iPhones.

Brooklyn resident Grace Cort recently had both of her knees replaced, but still managed to stand for hours waiting for the pontiff. By the time he arrived and passed by her, she was overwhelmed with tears.

“I’m not Catholic, but I’m Christian and I feel that this pope is the embodiment of Christ,” Cort said. “He’s humble and he speaks of all that the world needs right now.”

Kimberly Pratt and her husband, Tim, said seeing the pope was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them.

“I’m a teacher at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic School,” Kimberly said. “Being able to be here with this pope at this time where we’re at is wonderful. He’s an inspiration.”

Follow Gonzales on Twitter: @TexasCatholic

New York City police officers direct ticket-holders for the papal motorcade to the entrance of Central Park on Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

New York City police officers direct ticket-holders for the papal motorcade to the entrance of Central Park on Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Security in Philadelphia extremely tight in advance of pope’s Saturday arrival

Philadelphia police officers get instructions outside of City Hall as a banner welcomes Pope Francis to the city of brotherly love. (CNS/Dennis Sadowski)

Philadelphia police officers get instructions outside of City Hall as a banner welcomes Pope Francis to the city of brotherly love. (CNS/Dennis Sadowski)

PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis does not arrive until tomorrow and the center city is in near lockdown.

Parts of normally bustling Market and Broad streets — main thoroughfares that converge at City Hall — were absent of vehicular traffic this morning other than an occasional security vehicle or motorcycle police patrols.

Concrete and steel barricades lined streets. Pedestrians had to wind through the barricades at intersections.

Traffic was limited to side streets, blocks from the main drags. Many businesses and offices were closed. Some had intended to be open, but power was out in some locales, forcing them to close anyway.

It was unknown if the power outage was planned or an accident.

Pedestrians were taking it in stride, but many seemed to be from the World Meeting of Families that was winding down at the Philadelphia Convention Center. The closed streets did not seem to bother the 150 people waiting in line outside of St. John the Evangelist Church, where the relics of St. Maria Goretti were on display.

A 30-minute walk around the center city revealed that along with dozens of Philadelphia Police officers, uniformed personnel from Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the fatigue-clad U.S. Customs and Border Protection were patrolling the streets.

If I had not known that I was in Philadelphia to cover the pope’s visit, I would have thought I was in a country that had undergone a military coup. The security presence was far stronger than any I had seen anywhere in the world, including countries whose leader kept a tight grasp on the population.

In contrast, security in Washington, where I had covered papal events Sept. 23-24, posed minor inconveniences. Except for security checkpoints, the presence of law enforcement was minimal. Street closures were kept to those essential to papal travels and occurred only hours before Pope Francis was to appear.

True, Washington regularly deals with the visit of world leaders, but I wonder if what I’m seeing in Philadelphia this weekend is a bit of overkill, especially because the pope isn’t even in town yet.

Covering a pope: You can’t make this up

Pope John Paul II, now a saint, celebrated Mass outdoors with Canada's First Nations in September 1987. (CNS photo/Brad Reynolds, S.J.)

Pope John Paul II, now a saint, celebrated Mass outdoors with Canada’s First Nations in September 1987. (CNS photo/Brad Reynolds, S.J.)

By Barb Fraze, international editor

First in a series

If a Hollywood producer had written a script, movie-goers would have said, “That would never happen.”

Yet what I witnessed 350 miles south of the Arctic Circle could have been an early sign that Pope John Paul II was special and might one day be a saint.

Catholic News Service Rome bureau staffers always get to cover papal trips, yet, as Pope Francis’ visit approached, we in Washington began thinking about our favorite moments of when we got to cover popes. No one in our newsroom is a papal rookie, so we agreed to share some of our stories.

Pope John Paul had been scheduled to visit Canada’s First Nations in 1984, during a multi-city trip to Canada, but he had to cancel because of fog. The Polish pope promised he would return, so he tacked on a visit at the end of his 1987 trip to the United States.

Pope John Paul II's altar platform included a giant teepee. (CNS photo/Brad Reynolds, S.J.)

Pope John Paul II’s altar platform included a giant teepee. (CNS photo/Brad Reynolds, S.J.)

Fort Simpson is a remote town in the Northwest Territories, and the papal Mass site was outdoors, at the intersection of the Mackenzie and Liard rivers. Most journalists flew in by plane — the “bigger plane” added from Yellowknife was a DC-3 — but First Nations members arrived by helicopter and canoe. The very few hotel rooms in the city were taken by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., so international journalists bunked in the ranger barracks and walked the mile along the river to the Mass site.

On the morning of the pope’s scheduled arrival, I could sense angst: Once again, it was rainy and foggy. We waited in the press tent near the altar platform with the teepee, wondering if, once again, the visit would be canceled. About the time Pope John Paul’s plane was scheduled to land, right on cue, the rain stopped. And, when his car pulled up to the Mass site — I kid you not — the clouds parted and a rainbow appeared in the sky.

Pope John Paul met with the First Nations leaders, who then met with press while the pope celebrated Mass laden with native American symbolism. The people were happy — they had planned and waited and hoped for years.

And, after several nights of watching, we journalists finally got to witness the spectacle of the Northern Lights — possibly another little miracle from the magnetic Pole who had visited that day.

– – –

Follow Barb Fraze on Twitter: @BFraze.

El papa Francisco visitará Cuba antes de comenzar su visita a Estados Unidos

Una monja mueve la bandera del Vaticano mientras asiste a la misa de Papa Juan Pablo II en La Habana el 25 de enero de 1998. El Vaticano confirmó que Papa Francisco visitará Cuba en septiembre. (CNS/Alyssa Banta)

Una monja mueve la bandera del Vaticano mientras asiste a la misa de Papa Juan Pablo II en La Habana el 25 de enero de 1998. El Vaticano confirmó que Papa Francisco visitará Cuba en septiembre. (CNS/Alyssa Banta)

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) — El sacerdote jesuita Federico Lombardi, portavoz del Vaticano, dijo a reporteros el 22 de abril que el papa ha “recibido y aceptado la invitación de las autoridades civiles y los obispos de Cuba” y ha decidido visitar la isla antes de ir a los Estados Unidos.

El papa está programado, tentativamente, para llegar a Estados Unidos tarde el 22 de septiembre a Washington y visitará Washington, Nueva York y Filadelfia del 23 a 27 de septiembre. Detalles, como el itinerario y fechas de el viaje del pontífice a Cuba, se darán a conocer más tarde, dijo el padre Lombardi.

En 1998, no mucho después de que llegó a ser arzobispo de Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio publicó un folleto que se centró en los discursos y homilías que Santo Juan Pablo II hizo durante su histórica visita a Cuba unos meses antes. En el documento hizo dos puntos importantes: el diálogo no es sólo posible, pero es necesario; y, un diálogo sincero y honesto beneficiaría tanto a los Estados Unidos como a Cuba.

Al mismo tiempo, el arzobispo Bergoglio repetidamente abogó por la plena libertad de la iglesia católica en Cuba a predicar el Evangelio y ministrar a los pobres y denunció sistemas ideológicos que ofenden la dignidad trascendente de la persona humana.

Durante su visita en el 2012 a Cuba, el papa Benedicto XVI hizo los mismos puntos. Una vez que regresó a Roma, dijo que había ido a mostrar su apoyo a la misión de la iglesia cubana de “proclamar el Evangelio con alegría a pesar de la falta de medios y de las dificultades que aún quedan por superar, para que la religión pueda realizar su servicio educativo y espiritual en el ámbito público”.

Pope calls on clergy, religious to share love with the poor

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — At his first Mass in the Philippines, Pope Francis demonstrated that he was not simply reading English, but understood it. The prepared text of his homily began with Jesus’ words to St. Peter, “Do you love me?”

Pope Francis arrives for Mass at Manila's Immaculate Conception Cathedral. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives for Mass at Manila’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral. (CNS/Paul Haring)

When the pope read those words, someone close to the front of the cathedral responded yes. The pope, laughing, responded, “Thank you,” then explained, “I was reading the words of Jesus.” Starting again, the pope said Jesus’ words to the Apostle, “Do you love me?… Tend my sheep,” are a reminder of “something essential: All pastoral ministry is born of love. All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love.” “Each of us is called, in some way, to be love in the heart of the church,” the pope said. The Gospel has the power to transform society, ensuring justice and care for the poor, but that can happen only if Christians — beginning with the church’s ministers — allow the Gospel to transform them, Pope Francis said. At the beginning of a Mass Jan. 16 with Filipino bishops, priests and religious in Manila’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Pope Francis led the congregation in a special penitential rite to ask forgiveness for ways they have failed to live up to the high ideals of their promises of poverty, chastity and obedience. Pope Francis introduced the rite with a prayer: “Unworthy though we are, God loves us and has given us a share in his Son’s mission as members of his body, the church. “Let us thank and glorify God for his great love and infinite compassion,” the pope prayed. “Let us beg for his forgiveness for failing to be faithful to his love. And let us ask for the strength to be true to our calling: to be God’s faithful witnesses in the world.” With almost a quarter of the country’s population living in poverty, with their exposure to typhoons, floods and earthquakes, and with a government plagued by corruption scandals, he said, the church must “acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ.” Individual Christians must “live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good,” he said, but they also must create “networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness.” Departing from his prepared text, the pope said: “The poor. The poor are the center of the Gospel, are at the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we can’t understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.” Although several elderly priests and religious were present — and were greeted by the pope during the sign of peace — many in the congregation were still in their 20s, and Pope Francis gave them a special commission to reach out to their peers. Financial and social-political difficulties have left many young Filipinos “broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets,” the pope said. Young church workers have a special obligation to be close to their peers because, despite everything, they “continue to see the church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope.” He also urged the seminarians, young priests and religious to “proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.” “As you know,” he said, “these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, greeting the pope at the end of the Mass, told him the cathedral had been repeatedly destroyed by fires, earthquakes and during war. “But it refuses to vanish. It boldly rises from the ruins — just like the Filipino people,” he said. “The Filipino has two treasures: music and faith, ‘la musica e la fede,” the cardinal told him in English and Italian. “Our melodies make our spirits soar above the tragedies of life. Our faith makes us stand up again and again after deadly fires, earthquakes, typhoons and wars.” We welcome you, successor of Peter, to this blessed land of untiring hope, of infinite music and of joyful faith,” the cardinal told the pope. “With your visit, we know Jesus will renew and rebuild his church in the Philippines.” Although the Mass was for bishops, priests and religious, tens of thousands of people gathered outside the cathedral, watching the Mass on large video screens set up on the cathedral steps.

Text of Pope Francis’ homily at Christmas Mass

VATICAN CITY — Here is the English translation of Pope Francis’ homily at Christmas Mass Dec. 24 in St. Peter’s Basilica:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Savior: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the “great light”. By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.


(CNS photo by Paul Haring)

(CNS photo by Paul Haring)

The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel (cf. Gen 4:8). As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples.

Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns.

Isaiah’s prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). The “sign” is the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me? More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!

The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: “Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict”.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). People who were unassuming, open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: “O Mary, show us Jesus!”


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