Philadelphia On Lockdown Ahead Of Pope Visit

Philadelphia Pope Francis Visit Lockdown
Photo Courtesy: UPI

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 26 (UPI) — The City of Brotherly Love is on lockdown Saturday ahead of Pope Francis‘ visit, a gathering expected to bring a record crowd of 1.5 million.

The 78-year-old pontiff arrived at Philadelphia International Airport about 9:50 a.m. on the final leg of his first visit to the United States. He will jump into a two-day whirlwind tour of the city, celebrating two masses, visiting Independence Hall, participating in two parades and attending the World Meeting of Families, which begins Tuesday.

Saturday morning, a huge area of downtown Philadelphia was closed to traffic and an eight-foot tall mesh fence, concrete barriers and TSA agents with airport screening systems were put in place to comply with Secret Service directives. Major highways and the Ben Franklin Bridge, which spans the Delaware River to New Jersey, were closed. Some public transportation in the city was halted and hundreds of cars were towed to make curbs clear for necessary traffic. Local public schools are closed for six days due to Yom Kippur and the papal visit.

About 6 a.m., crowds began forming near Independence Hall, where the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were adopted, to see the pope when he holds a rally there at about 5 p.m.

In the days leading up to the visit in Philadelphia, many local residents criticized disruption of work, school and transit for the pope’s visit, some leaving the city or settling in to their homes to ride out the wave of visitors. Saturday morning, the atmosphere seemed more positive.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese estimates more than a third of its territory’s 4 million residents are Catholic.

The following is the pope’s anticipated Saturday schedule:

10:30 a.m. Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia 4:45 p.m. Visit to Independence Mall 7:30 p.m. Visit to the Festival of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway

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