What to Know About the Pope Francis Visit

Pope Francis

As you probably (and hopefully) know, Pope Francis is making a special trip to Philadelphia this weekend  for an event called the World Meeting of Families. This event will take place Friday, September 25th through Sunday, September 27th. So what does that mean for people in the Philly area? It means that in addition to an influx of about one million people, there will be several roads, attractions, and areas that will be closed.

Here are some answers to an array of frequently asked questions:

What exactly is the World Meeting of Families?

The World Meeting of Families is an event created by Pope John Paul II in 1994. Held every three years, its purpose is to address and celebrate families of all kinds and their roles in societies. Each event has a theme, and this year’s is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

How long will the Pope be visiting?

The Pope will arrive in Philadelphia on Saturday, the 26th and be in the area until Sunday, the 27th.

What roads will be closed?

There are several major highways in and around Philadelphia that will be closed beginning Friday, the 25th. These include:

  • I-76 eastbound (from I-476 to I-95) and westbound (from I-95 to Route 1).
  • Route 1 northbound (from I-76 to Lancaster Avenue) and southbound (from Belmont to Lancaster Avenue).
  • I-676 in both directions (from I-76 to I-95).
  • The Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed to vehicles and open only to pedestrians.

For a list of smaller road closings in Philadelphia, click here.

Will I still be able to take the train/subway?

Yes. SEPTA will still be running its Regional Rail line as well as the Market-Frankfort Line, Norristown High Speed Line, Broad Street Line, and Trolley Routes, however, each line will only be stopping at certain stops. (For a map of the routes, click here.) You’ll also have to have a special one-day, three-day, weekly, or monthly pass to ride certain SEPTA lines.

What attractions will be closed?

Historical attractions like the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, and the Philadelphia History Museum will only be closed Saturday, while others like the Philadelphia Zoo, Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Franklin Institute, and Eastern State Penitentiary will be closed Saturday and Sunday. For a detailed list of attraction closings, click here.

Are papal events open to the public?

Many events are open to the public, including the World Meeting of Families celebration on Saturday and the papal mass on Sunday. However, tickets are required to attend. Other events like the Pope’s visit to Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary and Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility will be closed to the public. If you don’t have tickets to an event, there will be 40 jumbotrons set up near the Ben Franklin Parkway, Independence Hall, and and City Hall for you to view them.

Will schools be closed?

Yes. Philadelphia area schools will be closed Friday, the 25th due to road closures. Many universities and colleges in the area will also be closed.

What items can I bring for the papal events?

Personal items like purses will be allowed at papal events, but bags and backpacks larger than 18″x13″x7″ are prohibited. In addition, you can’t bring:

  • Aerosols
  • Ammunition
  • Animals other than service/guide animals
  • Balloons
  • Bicycles
  • Hard Coolers (Soft-sided thermal coolers ARE allowed)
  • Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
  • Explosives
  • Firearms
  • Glass, thermal or metal containers
  • Laser pointers
  • Mace/Pepper spray
  • Packages
  • Selfie Sticks
  • Signs exceeding the size restrictions (5’ x 3’ x 1/4”) or signs made of any material except cardboard, poster board or cloth
  • Structures
  • Supports for signs and placards
  • Toy guns
  • Weapons of any kind
  • Any other items determined to be a potential safety hazard

What else is going on?

There will be a Festival of Families concert on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. The concert will include performances by Aretha Franklin, The Fray, Jim Gaffigan, Andrea Bocelli, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Also, there are two papal parades that the Pope will participate in – one on Saturday after his speech at 4:45 p.m. and the other on Sunday (the time is TBD).

If you’re going to visit the city this weekend, our PHL Airport parking company suggests planning on walking for much of the time. Roads and traffic will be blocked and/or detoured in many places because of the event, and walking will be a much easier mode of transportation.

For more information about the papal visit, sign up for a Papal Visit Playbook.

*Image courtesy of visitphilly.com