Pope Francis’ Visit to Philadelphia: What We Know

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In just over two months, Pope Francis will be on his way to Philadelphia for the first Papal visit to the city since 1979 and the city expects to entertain over a million guests during the Pontiff's two-day stay. Here is everything we know about what will happen during the Papal Visit:


The Vatican released the pope’s schedule for his visit on June 30. Here’s where the pontiff will be when he’s traveling around Philadelphia:

Saturday, September 26

  • 8:40 a.m.: Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 9:30 a.m.: Arrival at Philadelphia International Airport
  • 10:30 a.m.: Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia
  • 4:45 p.m.: Visit to Independence Mall
  • 7:30 p.m.: Visit to the Festival of Families Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Sunday, September 27

  • 9:15 a.m.: Meeting with bishops at St. Martin's Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
  • 11 a.m.: Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia
  • 4 p.m.: Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • 7 p.m. Visit with organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families at Philadelphia International Airport
  • 8 p.m. Departure for Rome

For the Pope's full U.S. schedule, click here.


This World Meeting of Families will be the eighth conference held since its inception in 1994. Organizers are expecting up to 20,000 adults and teens to attend the congresses.

As the weekend approaches, expect more and more visitors to flood the city. A crowd of about 800,000 is expected for the Festival of Families on Saturday and 1.5 million people will gather on the Parkway for the Sunday Mass.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway

While information about road closures in the city is not yet available, it’s clear that the Ben Franklin Parkway will be packed with people from end to end during the Papal Visit.

The Festival of Families will take place on the Parkway on Saturday, September 26. High-profile guests like Andrea Bocelli, Juanes and the Philadelphia Orchestra will play for those in attendance. The Pope is expected to visit the festival at 7:30 p.m.

Pope Francis will lead the Sunday Mass from an altar in Eakin's Oval beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, September 27. People who don’t show up early enough to grab a spot within eyesight of the pope will be able to watch the Mass on a number of Jumbotrons to be set up along the Parkway and around the city.


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Public transit or walking will be the best ways to get around Philadelphia during the papal visit.

“Private vehicles will not be a viable option,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a June meeting of city leaders and event organizers. 

During the World Meeting of Families, SEPTA will operate as usual, but once the pope arrives, big schedule changes are in store.


Only 31 of the transit authority’s 282 rail stations will remain open over the weekend. Trains will make just two stops on each route — one at the origin station, where the train will be fully loaded, and one at the car’s final destination in Center City — either 30th Street Station or Jefferson Station. From there, the train will travel back where it came from to load up again.

SEPTA morning trains will run one-way express service into Center City from 5:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and evening service out of the city will begin at 5:30 p.m.

SEPTA will sell One-Day Regional Rail passes for the papal visit. The passes went on sale Monday, July 20, but high web traffic quickly shut down the e-commerce website designed to sell the passes. SEPTA has not announced when the passes will go back on sale. 


Buses will continue to run for the entire duration of the papal visit, but routes that travel through the security perimeter will be truncated or shut down for the weekend.

For example, if you're heading for Chestnut Hill from South Philly on the Route 23 bus, you will be taken as far north as possible and let off near the security perimeter. You'd then have to walk through the secured area — probably for several blocks — and get on another Route 23 bus on the other side.

Buses that have the majority of their route inside the security perimeter will be canceled for the visit.


Along the Broad Street subway and Market-Frankford El, trains will start shuttling up to 1,000 people into Center City at 6 a.m. Only two stations on each section of the line will be open. Trains will be expressed from each station, meaning they will not top until the final destination.

Trains will run continuously from 6 a.m. until around 1 p.m. and then start operating again once nighttime events are over. During either time, riders will not be able to go in the other direction in which the trains are running — meaning if you want to take the train to South Philly during the morning, you won't be able to. Here's the breakdown:

Broad Street Line

  • Heading north: Express service from AT&T station to Walnut-Locust
  • Heading south: Express service from the Fern Rock Transportation Center and Cecil B. Moore station to Spring Garden

Market-Frankford Line

  • Heading east: Express service from 69th Street Transportation Center and 52nd Street to 30th Street Station
  • Heading west: Express service from Frankford Transportation Center and Girard Avenue to 2nd Street

Norristown High Speed Line & Trolley Routes

Like the subways, two stations will be open taking people to the 69th Street Transporation Center on the high-speed line and Route 101 and 102 Trolleys. Riders will then be able to hop on the el to get near Center City.

  • NHSL: Express service from Gulph Mills and Villanova stations
  • Route 101: Express service from Springfield Mall and Leamy Avenue
  • Route 102: Express service from North Street and Clifton-Aldan

SEPTA will sell an unlimited 3-day pass for the subway, trolley and bus lines for $10.


PATCO will operate in a similar fashion, with just five of its 13 stations open for business during the papal visit. Trains will run westbound to 9/10th and Locust Street from the regional line's Broadway, Ferry Avenue, Woodcrest and Lindenwold Stations. All return trips will begin at 9/10th and Locust and will stop only at the aforementioned four New Jersey stations.

Current PATCO FREEDOM Card holders will not need to purchase additional passes and can use their cards to travel one-way for $2.50. PATCO is selling 1-day and 2-day FREEDOM Cards for the weekend. For more information about PATCO service and to purchase FREEDOM Cards for the Pope's visit, click here.


SEPTA has advised those taking transit into the city to be dropped off at stations if possible. Limited parking will be available at SEPTA stations. PATCO stations with trains to Philadelphia will offer nearly 8,000 parking spaces for commuters. The PATCO Broadway Station does not offer parking.

Street Closures

City officials have said there will be road closures, but have yet to announce them.


Philadelphia public school students will have off on Friday, September 25 due to street closures which, according to district spokesman Fernando Gallard, will make it too difficult for kids to get to class. Catholic schools will also be closed.

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