More details are emerging about the papal visit. This morning, the Vatican confirms that Pope Francis will make several stops in Philadelphia while in town in late September.
The Holy Father will begin with a private Mass for about 1,600 members of the Philadelphia Archdiocese at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul shortly after arriving in the city on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 26, said Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre.
“For all those who make up the church and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the priests, the deacons, the men and women religious and the lay faithful,” McIntyre said.
Following the private Mass, the pontiff will greet young priests-in-training at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
Next he will go to Independence Hall. According to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Pope Francis is expected to make a speech about immigration and religious liberty to a crowd of up to 50,000 people.
Later that evening, the pope will head to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a 90-minute visit during Saturday night’s Festival of Families.
On Sunday, the pope will meet with inmates and select families at the Curran-Fromhold prison in Northeast Philadelphia, which holds the largest prison population in the city.
“What he has demonstrated to the world is that he cares about those who are often left out, locked out or, in this particular instance, locked up,” Nutter said.
Philadelphia Prison Commissioner Louis Giorla said Tuesday he was surprised when he heard Pope Francis would visit city inmates.
“I don’t know how it came about. I do know that the archbishop was here in January to say Mass. I kind of jokingly asked him if, when the pope comes to the city in September, he’d be more than welcome to pay us a visit, we’d be glad to host him,” he said. “So, it came true. We’re thrilled, we’re excited and we’re looking forward to this.”
A gym at Curran Fromhold Prison will be the setting for the papal visit. About 200 people will be able to see the pope, including prisoners, their families and other invited guests.
McIntyre speculated on what the Holy Father will say to the prisoners and their families.
“I’m sure while he’s there he will, if I were to make an educated guess, do two things,” McIntyre said. “To encourage those who are incarcerated to face what they did and continue to have a change of heart, a change of life and to entrust in the mercy of Christ.”
Pope Francis will conclude his Philadelphia visit with a Mass on the Parkway at 4 p.m. Sunday, an event that is expected to draw a crowd of up to 2 million people.
The Festival of Families and the Mass on the Parkway will all be open to the public. The speech at Independence Hall will include some ticketed and non-ticketed areas.
“Pope Francis’ plans for his visit to Philadelphia seamlessly integrate powerful public moments with more intimate gatherings that are deeply grace filled,” said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput in a statement.
“It is an itinerary that says, ‘I walk with you — and so does the Lord.'”