Joseph DeSimone, Staff Writer

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Pope Francis, Rome, Religion, Catholic, CatholicismPope Francis, the 266th Pope, visited the city of Philadelphia on September 26 and September 27. While in the United States, he also visited Washington D.C. and New York City. Many agree that he is an inspiration to not only Catholics, but to all people throughout the world. He came to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, an event held every three years. It is a time when Catholics from all over the world come together to further their cause and mission — to strengthen the sacred bonds of families from across the globe. The fact that Pope Francis would actually be attending the 2015 World Meeting of Families imbued Catholics in the United States with excitement and religious spirit. In Philadelphia, the excitement was the result of over a year’s worth of anticipation for the first Papal visit to the city of Philadelphia in over 35 years. On the other hand, my anticipation had been building up for a little over two weeks after learning that my family had received tickets for the World Meeting of Families event.

The city of Philadelphia and the federal government took a number of measures to ensure the Pope’s safety during his visit while still accommodating the large number of people expected to attend the various Papal events. The Ben Franklin Bridge was closed to the general public and motorized vehicles weren’t allowed within a certain area. Military personnel such as F.B.I, C.I.A, S.W.A.T., and Secret Service were patrolling the streets constantly. Also, checkpoints were set up along a set perimeter where people and their bags and belongings were thoroughly searched. Inside these checkpoints, people would have to walk for a couple of miles to get in a good position to see the Pope. Some areas required tickets while others were open to the general public. I witnessed and experienced many of these

precautionary measures coming into the city on Saturday afternoon to see the Papal Parade. It was said that the Pope would travel down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and around City Hall before going back up the Parkway. The crowds surged toward center city, desperate to get just a glance at Pope Francis. The streets have never been as alive, or as dead as they were at the time. Some areas were deserted, no people or cars around whatsoever, while other areas were so dense with people that you could hardly move. Along the way, you could not help but run into peddlers trying to sell their homemade Pope t-shirts and flags or the occasional fanatic preaching in the streets. The coming of the Pope seemed to rejuvenate the religious spirit of all Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Eventually, we came to a spot along 16th street between the Parkway and City Hall that would give us a perfect view of the Pope. After waiting about 3 hours, I began to hear the crowd cheering. Not the crowd surrounding me, but the crowd a few blocks away. I could hear the cries of the people echoing off of the city skyscrapers. We knew that Pope Francis was close. Suddenly, the cheering became louder and I began to hear the rumble of the Pope’s escort. As they rounded the corner, I looked for the form of the all-too familiar Popemobile. Then, a white jeep with a glass arch appeared as he waved to the crowds. Because it was nighttime, the Popemobile was lit up and the Pope himself was illuminated in white light. The jeep drove by slowly and I saw the Pope with my own eyes, no more than 25 feet from where I was standing. He made his way around City Hall and drove by for a second time. After he had left, the crowd dispersed, some going home, while others followed in the wake of the Pope. It was not until much later that I realized how lucky, no, how blessed, I was to see the head of the Catholic Church himself.

Francis was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936, where among other jobs, he worked as a chemical technologist and a nightclub bouncer before becoming a priest. Pope John Paul II later made him a Cardinal in 2001. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, a papal conclave elected

Francis as his successor. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European Pope since the Syrian, Gregory III, in 741 A.D.

Unlike previous Popes, Francis stands out for his emphasis on mercy and helping the poor. He recently rejected a dinner with leading U.S. politicians in favor of dining with the poor in a soup kitchen. He is known for his humility and simplicity, even refusing to stay in the Papal Palace. He truly believes that the Church as a whole must be more opening and welcoming to the people of the world!

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