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September 03, 2015

Pope Francis to parade down Parkway — twice

Event organizers say parades offer everyone a chance to see Pope Francis up-close

Pope Francis will participate in two parades on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during his visit to Philadelphia in late September, World Meeting of Families Executive Director Donna Crilley Farrell announced Thursday.

The first parade will take place prior to the Festival of Families on Saturday, Sept. 26. Pope Francis will ride from Eakins Oval down the Parkway, around City Hall and back up the Parkway to Eakins Oval.

The second parade will take place Sunday, Sept. 27 when Pope Francis is expected to serve Mass to some 1.5 million people. Exact details for that parade are still being worked out, but Farrell said it will be shorter than the one Saturday to ensure the papal Mass starts on time.

"Everybody who gathers on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will have an opportunity to see Pope Francis," Farrell said. "... We're pretty excited about that announcement. We think that's just awesome. Pope Francis is going to be among the crowd."

The parade announcement came one day after a Secret Service map revealed a significant portion of the Parkway — including the best sightlines to see Pope Francis — will be limited to ticket holders. The news drew sharp criticism in the news media.

"We heard the concerns," Farrell said. "We totally get it. Thank you for advocating for everybody out there."

Farrell announced that an additional 25,000 free tickets will be available to the general public for all three public events featuring Pope Francis.

The total number of tickets available for the pontiff's speech Saturday at Independence Mall has been doubled to 10,000. Those tickets will be available Tuesday online on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Another 10,000 tickets for both the Festival of Families and the papal Mass also will be made available. The public can obtain them online Wednesday on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Farrell said event organizers always had considered restricting some areas to ticket-holders, but said planning the events has been a fluid process.

"For security reasons and crowd management, it became important that we had ticketed areas," Farrell said, declining to provide the total number of tickets being provided for the Parkway events.

Event organizers are providing tickets to the 219 parishes of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services, among others. Tickets are being distributed to parishes based on their size, Farrell said.

Farrell insisted people who do not receive tickets should still consider attending, saying the parades will give everyone an opportunity to see the Holy Father up-close. Jumbotrons also will be placed throughout Center City to broadcast the papal events.

"This is going to be incredible no matter where you are within the downtown area," Farrell said.

Ticket holders will be able to access the Parkway from Eakins Oval to 20th Street. Non-ticket holders can access an area extending from 20th Street to City Hall. All pilgrims entering the Parkway and Independence Mall must pass through security checkpoints, outlined here.

Farrell also announced that 1,100 buses have registered with the World Meeting of Families to attend the papal events. Buses are coming from 38 states and three Canadian provinces. One private van is driving from Fresno, California — the longest registered vehicular trek.

Not surprisingly, the top five states sending the most buses hail from the Northeast — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts.

There are also groups flying from Hawaii and British Columbia to attend the papal visit.

Yet, event organizers initially projected 4,000 to 5,000 buses would arrive in Philadelphia. 

Farrell denied that the lower numbers suggested apathy or affect projected attendance figures. But she appeared grateful when a reporter suggested the success of the event does not hinge on its attendance.

"We are all focused, energized and ready to execute a spectacular event," Farrell said. "We believe, in the end, this is all going to come together."

Farrell said event organizers have three goals — re-energize the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, highlight the role of families and showcase "the awesomeness" of Philadelphia.