Philadelphia Shines


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Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

Was it perfect? Maybe not quite. Philadelphia’s performance as the host-city of the World Conference of Families, the main event of Pope Francis’ trip to America was exemplary. Not only was the Pope kept safely, he was able to interact with a public that was eager to see him. The whole event was nearly ideal.

I don’t want to slam New York or DC, both of which also had some moments in Pope Francis’ trip that were memorable, but much of what happened in those cities had more to do with the formalities of this trip than with interacting with the public. He had more interaction with government and church leadership officials in those cities, and it felt like less with the general public. In Philadelphia, the Pontiff had the opportunity to interact with his flock.

There were worries that Philadelphia could not handle an event like this. They handled it fine. The Pope was kept safe. The public was kept safe. The streets were filled for mass, and the Center City area was vibrant and excited. He had some “made for TV” moments, such as visiting a prison or speaking at Independence Hall. While the transportation grid was supposedly “shut down” by the visit, I found it easy to get around Philadelphia, even yesterday. They city took a global event head on, and handled it like a champ.

There was perhaps too much hype around the security there, as it did cause some people to stay away, and SEPTA should have simply ran normal schedules on the regional lines, as it would have drawn more people in I think. Past that, I can’t think of anything they did wrong with this event. Philadelphia was great.

I’m not shocked at how well Philadelphia did. It’s a world class city. People pretend that DC and not Philadelphia is the “other” big city on the Eastern seaboard after New York, which always amuses me, but it isn’t true. Philadelphia is one of America’s great cities, it’s fifth largest, and maybe it’s most “salt-of-the-Earth” type of city. The blue-collar nature of the city was on display with it’s police, it’s fire fighters, it’s volunteers, and it’s people this weekend, for all the world to see. The world saw. Philadelphia is an amazing, great place.

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