Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, in a Sunday op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, urged people to "be not afraid" to attend events in Philadelphia during Pope Francis' September visit.
"The only thing standing between an enormously successful World Meeting of Families and one that's 'merely' successful is we, ourselves and I mean the whole Philadelphia community," Chaput wrote in the op-ed. "We can defeat ourselves by not being part of the Francis Festival and the city's welcome for the Holy Father, and by giving in to the anxieties and worries that go along with any major effort like this."
Concerns over access to events and inconveniences caused by several Center City blocks being closed to most vehicle traffic arose as city officials released more information about their plans for Pope Francis' Sept. 26-27 visit. The Pope's visit bookends the World Meeting of Families, which takes place in Philadelphia for the entire week leading up to when Pope Francis is to arrive.
More than 100,000 SEPTA Papal Passes for Regional Rail were still available late last week, and SEPTA encouraged riders to purchase them, saying that more than 23,000 parking spots at different train stops will also be available. SEPTA passes were first expected to sell out quickly, and were released via a lottery system -- but tens of thousands remain unclaimed.
City leaders said the areas Pope Francis will visit -- including the Parkway for a public Mass and Independence Mall -- will be part of "Francis Festival" grounds.
Chaput called Pope Francis' visit "a moment of grace" and aimed at allaying people's concerns by using writings from the Bible in his op-ed.
"Nowhere in Scripture do we find Mary, Joseph, or Jesus worrying about security, transportation, or logistics," Chaput wrote. "Somehow, Mary and Joseph managed to make their way to Bethlehem and have a baby in a stable. Somehow, they managed to find the adolescent Jesus in the Temple. And somehow, Jesus managed to preach his Gospel all over Judea despite robbers, brigands, and demons and without downtown parking or even a SEPTA pass."