Men behind bars and a group of select Catholics will likely get closer to Pope Francis than most of the 1.5 to 2 million people expected to gather in Philadelphia for his September visit.
The pope’s official itinerary for his first trip to the U.S. was released Tuesday morning by the Vatican and includes stops to visit people and places in sync with the Pope’s efforts to engage people at a level of behavior he believes is actionable, namely mercy and compassion.
Highlighted stops include a school in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, sharing time with poor migrant workers at a Charity Center in D.C. and a visit to Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold prison, which currently houses more than 6,800 inmates. On average, about 30,000 men are processed through the facility each year, according to the City of Philadelphia’s website.
In addition to the already publicized and highly-anticipated Sunday Mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia’s visit includes a papal Mass at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul shortly after Pope Francis arrives Saturday, September 26.
The Mass is an invitation-only event for select Catholics from parishes around the region, according to a source working closely with the Archdiocese. We expect to learn more about the selection criteria for that audience later today when WMOF leaders answers questions about the itinerary.
Philadelphia will be the final stop of the Pope’s U.S. tour, although as the host city for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) Philly prompted Francis’ first-ever visit to the states. Pope Benedict made the commitment to come to Philadelphia and then decided to make the rare move only one Pope before him had ever made – he retired, leaving Francis to make good on the expectation.
The WMOF is held every three years in a different part of the world. Traditionally, the pope takes part in the closing event -- the Festival of Families -- where Pope Francis will interact on an outdoor stage along The Parkway with a handful of families from all over the world, hearing their testimonials or statements of faith.
FULL ITINERARY FOR POPE FRANCIS:
Pope Francis visits three U.S. cities on his tour – Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. He will arrive in the states after another first, a visit to Cuba.
Sept. 22: Arrives DC at Andrews Air Force Base [late afternoon]
Sept. 23: 9 a.m. White House Welcome on the South Lawn
Noon: Prayer Service at St. Matthews
3 – 4 p.m. Canonization of Junipero Serra at Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception at Catholic University
Sept. 24: 9 a.m. Speech to Congress
11 a.m. Catholic Charity Center at Capitol Hill
4 p.m. Travel to NYC
Sept. 24: 5 p.m. Arrive Queens, NY
6 p.m. St. Patrick’s Evening Prayer
Sept. 25: 9 a.m. Speech to United Nations
11 a.m. Ground Zero Interfaith Event
2 p.m. School Visit in Harlem
6 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Gardens
Sept. 26: 8:30 a.m. Travel to Philly
10 a.m. Mass at Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul
4 p.m. Papal Address at Independence Mall
6 p.m. Festival of Families at Ben Franklin Pkwy.
Sept. 27: AM: Meeting with Bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
AM: Prison visit at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
Projected at 4 p.m. Papal Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Mayor Michael Nutter issued the following statement regarding the announcement of Pope Francis’ itinerary for his visit to Philadelphia:
“From visiting with inmates and their families at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility to appearances at some of Philadelphia’s most important, recognizable landmarks like Independence Hall and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis will touch the hearts and souls of millions when he visits the City of Philadelphia this September. With the Holy Father’s itinerary now formalized, we will use this schedule to inform our planning, working closely with our partners at all levels of government, the World Meeting of Families and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The City of Philadelphia has a long history of hosting big events; we will be ready to welcome Pope Francis when he arrives.”