Papal security maps circulating are way off course, Philly mayor says

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Two maps claiming to show security plans for the papal visit have surfaced on social media. That annoyed Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter so much he called a news conference on short notice Monday to blast the maps as inaccurate.

“At times, little people who have little pieces of information will try to put out what they have or what they think they have in an effort to make themselves larger than they might be,” said Nutter, flanked by Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, emergency management director Samantha Phillips, SEPTA police Chief Thomas Nestel, as well as the heads of the World Meeting of Families. 

One map was reportedly posted to the website Reddit over the weekend. The other was created by the news website Billy Penn with information from an anonymous source. Each map purported to answer a question being asked more and more often: Just how much of the city will be closed to traffic during the visit?

With two months until Pope Francis’ arrival, Nutter would not answer that question and says the security plan is still being tweaked.

Ultimately, the U.S. Secret Service is in charge because the Pope is a visiting head of state. The federal agency has said previously in response to a report about plans for a fenced-in area in Center City that “things change almost daily.”

The mayor said it is too soon to put out a final map of the security perimeters for many reasons.

“It’s a world leader and safety is paramount,” said Nutter. “I’m not planning to give every nutcase in the universe a significant amount of advance information from a security standpoint as exactly where and when and what route Pope Francis is going to be transported.”

Donna Crilley Farrell of the World Meeting of Families said organizers hope residents and visitors alike are not being scared away by the security needed for the Mass and other papal events.

“Our message has been and continues to be come to the World Meeting of Families,” she said. “It will be a once in a lifetime event for our city for our archdiocese and for our country.”

More information is expected to be released early next week. In the meantime, SEPTA postponed its own press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon, one week after the transit agency suspended sales of special papal rail passes after its website crashed.

For more information about what we know and don’t know (yet) about the papal visit, check out our FAQ here. There, you can also send us your questions about what #popeinphilly means for you. 

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