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August 03, 2015

Lower Merion awaits specifics on papal visit

The pope will be staying at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary

Papal Visit Lower Merion
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Source/Google Street View

Pope Francis will stay at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary when he visits Philadelphia in late September.

Philadelphia residents are not alone in seeking greater specifics regarding the papal visit.

Lower Merion Township — where Pope Francis will stay at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary — is hosting an informational meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to update residents on the township’s papal visit plans.

Significant details regarding the papal visit have yet to be announced. In Philadelphia, residents are awaiting details on a security perimeter, road closures and emergency services. South Jersey residents are wondering whether the Benjamin Franklin Bridge will remain open.

In Lower Merion, concerns primarily revolve around potential traffic congestion.

Road closures will not be announced until sometime after Labor Day, Lower Merion spokesman Tom Walsh said. However, ensuring access to Lankenau Medical Center — located across from the seminary — will be paramount.

“There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know at this point,” Walsh said. “It’s too early, which seems a little strange because it’s only (eight) weeks from now. But we have to take our cues from the Secret Service.

“This is a national event. The Secret Service is calling it, not only the largest operation that they’ve ever had to coordinate, but the largest event in the history of the East Coast.”

Police Superintendent Michael McGrath and Seventh Ward Commissioner Liz Rogan will address residents on what to expect during the papal visit, slated for Sept. 26 and Sept. 27. 

The Seventh and 12th Wards, located near the seminary, will see the greatest impact.

“We're just urging everyone to be prepared and expect delays,” Walsh said. “Everyone is going to be impacted, whether or not they're directly involved. It's going to impact everyone — that's for sure.”

Weather also could play a factor, Walsh said, particularly in regard to crowds. The township expects people will gather outside the seminary in hopes of catching a glimpse of Pope Francis. But weather could impact the size of the crowds.

“We expect some crowds there,” Walsh said. “We just honestly cannot tell exactly what time he's going to be getting there. There is definitely going to be a mass there for the seminarians. That's not open to the public, but that's a main road there.”

Walsh said some residents have expressed concern regarding the papal visit, mostly from people living near the seminary.

Lower Merion placed recorded telephone messages to residents in the Seventh and 12th wards, informing them of Wednesday’s meeting.

The meeting will be held in rooms 101 A, B and C at Lankenau’s Annenberg Center for Education at 100 Lancaster Avenue.