Live blog: Philadelphia and Catholics witness Pope Francis’ mass

8:00 p.m.:

Some eager pilgrims couldn’t get close to Pope

Joanna Lingner said she had to bail. She and a friend, Barb Zimmerman, took the train up from Aberdeen, MD, and made it in line by 12:45 p.m.

But by 5 p.m., Lingner said, after getting in line at 19th and JFK, they’d only made it to Cherry Street.

“What’s that, like a block up?” Lingner asks? It’s two. But a tough pace for four hours.

Many pilgrims at 30th Street Station Sunday evening say their plans of making in it for mass were dashed.

A pair of friends from New York shrugged when explaining they too spent hours waiting unsuccessfully.

Jem Jebbia, a Buddhist chaplain at Northeastern, was stuck outside of the checkpoint and says she watched the mass on the phones of people standing by her in line.

She was “not really disappointed,” she explained.

“Feel like I took a really nice pilgrimage … People were singing in so many different languages. It was a really great experience.”

Lingner, Zimmerman and Jebbia did not have kids. A New Jersey couple that did said they made it in 3 hours.

“It’s sad. Philadelphia could not handle [the turnout]” says Lingner. “I think they were overwhelmed honestly. They didn’t have enough checkpoints.”

“And the checkpoints they had didn’t have enough detectors,” Zimmerman chimes in

“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of people.” says Lingner. “That’s crazy.”

7:15 p.m.

After Papal mass, tensions erupt during protest as visitors depart

Shouting matches and confrontations followed shortly after the Papal mass as departing pilgrims encontered anti-Pope protesters on Broad & Walnut street

The Henry Society, a group of disgruntled Evangelicals and excommunicated Catholics over the Pope Francis’ “excessive idolatry and false teachings,” aroused the crowd of papal visitors.

“The Pope is an Antichrist,” said minister Chuck O’ Neal from Oregon.

Automatically, a crowd of travelers began to yell “We love Pope Francis” in an attempt to drown out the sounds of his denouncements piped through a megaphone.

“This isn’t free speech, this is hate speech…these men are crazy out here speaking such ignorant buffoonery,” said Carl Romano, 27, from South Jersey. “I’m not even religious and this offends me.”

After standing and hearing more of the protestors chant denouncements against the Papal visit, Romano confronted Michael Marcavage, an ex-Roman Catholic demonstrator.

“God doesn’t want this for you,” Marcavage told Romano. “Your soul seeks repentance.”

Officers then had to remove Romano after he began to yell epithets and ball his fist at group.

“F–k these religious fanatics … this entire papal visit has been a pain that I can’t wait to be over,” he said. “I’m seriously counting down the hours.”

-Ernest Owens

6:05 p.m.

Pope Francis preaches unity of humanity at World Meeting mass

In the midst of millions of dollars of preparations, city reorganizing that wildly disrupted locals’ schedules and levels of security not seen even for the U.S. president, Pope Francis took the stage Sunday like he just a priest attending any weekly Mass at a neighborhood parish.

As the packed parkway fell silent, the Argentine pontiff, seemingly unaware of the mountains that were moved to make way for this moment, led an ordinary Sunday mass.

His homily touched on the themes that Francis has become known for foregrounding in public appearances: universal love over cultural and national divisions.

“Our families, our homes, are true domestic churches,” Francis said. “They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.”

Hundreds of musicians provided celestial music for the Mass, which like traditional Mass included the ordinary Bible readings.

In one departure from the Pope’s prepared homily that was possibly improvised, the Pope gave attendees a question.

“I leave you with a question for each of you to answer … ‘In my own home, do we shout, or do we speak to each other in love and tenderness?’ That is a good way of measuring love.”

Linking the relations within a single human family to those of all humanity, Francis urged a spirit of unity upon listeners hearing his message.

“Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions,” Francis said. “The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit off a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”​

-Sam Newhouse

5:50 p.m.

South Philly papal viewing tent attracts pilgrims, wishers

Under a tent at Ninth and Montrose streets in South Philly, there are three big screens. Two were playing the papal visit, and one was playing the Eagles-Jets game.

An organizer came to the front of the viewing stage, sensing that people aren’t that into football right now, as the clocks neared 4 p.m. and the papal mass was scheduled to begin.

“Does everybody vote for the pope?” they asked. Yeses resounded from the viewers, and all three televisions were set to the papal mass

With roughly 30 people gathered, not solely made up of neighborhood residents, the viewing party became something of an outpost for weary visitors and family members shacking up with neighbors during this momentous occasion.

Carol Jean Hatter flew in from Lexington, Kentucky to attend the papal mass. She was at the festival last night, but decided to come to the South Philly viewing party“instead of fighting the crowds and spending all that time in security.”

Ramona Decker also attended the festivities last night, and while she enjoyed the experience, felt too tired to make a go of it again.

“Walking was fine, but the standing and the waiting … it’s nice that they provided this.”

-Cassie Owens

5:45 p.m.

Hundreds embrace in hugs and kisses during Papal mass viewing on Spruce Street

Behind Spruce & Broad Street were hundreds of Papal pilgrims in a line stretching all the way to Pine Street — all there for the Papal mass and for fellowship.

“I’ve waited all my life to see Papa Francis,” said Maria Castellan, 22, from Italy. Castellan was with her 71-year old grandmother who. in her native language. said “God is glory.”

Throughout the mass, tears streamed from attendees’ faces as various visitors prayed and sung while watching Pope Francis speak on a Jumbotron.

“I could care less about the Eagles tonight — the Pope is here,” said Joe
Nelson, 35, while wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey. “I know they’re playing, but it’s the Pope, people!”

During the mass, clergy called for members to display their “sign of peace.” Within seconds of the declaration, hundreds watching began to hug and kiss one another.

“It was so beautiful, this much love in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection … I may sound mushy, but I can’t help it,” said Amy Keller, 31.

After the final prayer, a crowd of various South American spiritual pilgrims began for fly their native flags proudly. “Amor Papa Francis,” many could be heard chanting.

-Ernest Owens

3 p.m.:

As Pope Francis ascended to the stage in the Ben Franklin Parkway to lead mass, Pope-inspired taboo street art was selling out in the Gayborhood.
“I just wanted to envision what Pope Francis would be doing if he was an everyday Philadelphian,” said North Philadelphia-based street artist, Miles “Smiles” Christenson.
Christenson, 23, has been selling original print reproductions of taboo images of Pope Francis eating a cheesesteak, wearing iconic Rocky boxing gloves, and even inside a toilet. He has been on the 13th and Walnut corner since Friday and nearly is sold out of his pieces, priced at $10 each.
“I’m not religious, but I respect the Pope … I love the vibe he’s bringing to the city — the artwork is meant to celebrate his arrival, Philly-style,” Christenson said. “Around here, we call him ‘Frankie the Pope.'”
But others have not been as amused.
“It’s disrespectful and totally uncalled for,” said Barbara Scott, 56, a passerby looker from Chicago. “To mock our holy Papa like that isn’t the best way to honor him — it’s blaphemous.”
“I know everyone won’t be too pleased, but so many have been supportive and get a good laugh from it,” Christenson said. “With all the madness in the city right now, bringing humor though art is what the people needs.”

2:15 p.m.:

Some Catholic who claim the Pope represents a form of idolatry were protesting against the Pope at Broad and Walnut streets Sunday afternoon.

“His real name is Jorge … not this ‘Francis’ nonsense he wants people to idolize him after,” said protester Micheal Marcavage.

Marcavage, an ex-communicated Roman Catholic from Lansdowne, Pa., was part of a demonstration by The Harold Society — an organization that “is devoted to revealing the real truth of Christ’s love.”

The demonstrators have been in Philadelphia since Friday, going to various Papal visit hotspots where they can “teach his word.”

“I’m tired of the idolatry, I came here all the way from Oregon to show people who’s really going to save them — Christ,” said Chuck O’Neal, a pastor and member of the Harold Society.

During the demonstration that includes the group passing out non-denominational bibles and pamphlets, a Papal visitor spit on the ground where they were before “rebuking [the demonstrators] in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost.”

Responding to similar controversies, Marcavage said “we come here out of love for everyone…if this Pope can feel validated to spew his holy lies, so should we in preaching true salvation.”

-Ernest Owens

2:10 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Eagles were up 17-0 against the Jets Sunday afternoon and sports fans were enjoying the game just feet away from religious pilgrims.

Liberty Bar sits on the walking route between 30th Street and the papal mass, where a steady stream of pilgrims has passed by, hearing the cheers of Eagles fans inside Darren Sproles punt return for a touchdown brought them in on the street.

Owner Mike Daddario said business has been good today.

At his other bar, Gunners Run in The Piazza, his business was off 90 percent.

“I usually do $6,000 on a Friday or Saturday night. I sit like $800.”

“It was just shocking,” he said. “Everyone fled.”

-Dan Kelley

12:30 p.m.:

Along the Market Street bridge Saturday, the sidewalks were packed with street vendors selling Pope Francis-related memorabilia including T-shirts, buttons, flags and other tchotchkes. But most of them are now sold out.

Justin Lawrence, who was selling flags with Pope Francis’ image on them on the bridge, said the Department of Licenses and Inspections had swept through and cleared out vendors who didn’t have licenses around 8:30 am this morning (vendors started at 5:30 a.m.).

In some cases, they confiscated merchandise, Lawrence said.

Lawrence was lucky. He had a permit — he paid $300 for it.

“It’s a lot, especially when L&I s hassling you,” Lawrence said.

Otherwise, business had been okay, he said. His prices started out high, about $20 per flag. He’s dropped the price to $5 but he’s had steady business.

-Dan Kelley

11:30 a.m.:

The run-up to the Pope’s visit has been a marvel of planning and logistics, but there appears to be one oversight.

Disabled people not associated with the papal visit are having trouble getting to orfrom 30thStreet Station to catch Amtrak trains.

Maurice Davidson, 61, is one of them. He came from Pittsburgh earlier this week to babysit his grandchildren while schools were closed. His daughter tried to drop him off at 30thStreet, but was blocked at 38thStreet due to traffic restrictions.

Davidson tried to walk the roughly one-mile stretch. He uses a cane, but saidhe has to take breaks every 30 yards or so because a back surgery “didn’t turn out so good.”

He and his daughter made it a few blocks, when they saw an Amtrak employee pushing a wheelchair near 34thStreet. The Amtrak employee, who confirmed the story but declined to be identified, had just pushed another disabled passenger to 38thStreet to catch a ride and was returning with an empty chair.

The employee saidthe absence of care for the disabled had been a major oversight.

Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz said transit authorities did attempt outreach to passengers with disabilities to let them know there was no vehicle transport to 30th Street Station available.

“We can’t control the traffic box,”Schulz said, referring to the no-vehicle zone that starts at 38th Street. “We very purposefully made a concerted effort to people we knew were traveling over the papal visit that there were restrictions in place.”

-Dan Kelley


A steady stream of pilgrims were leaving 30thStreet Station on Sunday monringhoping to get good seats on the Ben Franklin Parkway to see Pope Francis’s papal mass.

Regina Dawley, of Yeadon, was among them, with her granddaughter Janiya. They were carrying chairsfor what could be a six-hour wait.

“I have some books to read,” Regina Dawley said.

Also at 30thStreetwas Henry Vergil, a supervisor for a trucking company in Aurora, Colorado.

He said the World Meeting of Families involved far more security than the2008 Democratic national convention in Denver. For that convention,security officials didn’t shut down a big chunk of downtown, and only closed I-25 for a brief chunk of time.

He marveled at the security measures taken inPhiladelphia to prepare for the mass.”They shut down the whole town,” he said. Still, he thinks it was necessary due to “the amount of people.”

-Dan Kelley

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