The last 4 weeks, the Philadelphia area has been counting down the days to a visit by His Holiness Pope Francis. News has been wall to wall on security, on what streets will be closed and how the visit will impact the Philadelphia area financially. The message of why Pope Francis may have been lost in the day to day news of how to make sure the Pope is kept safe and how traffic pattern changes will impact our area. For area Catholics this is a moment in time they will never forget. The last Pope to visit the United States was Pope John Paul II in 1979. The similarities between these two Popes is inspiring. Both men have earned, rightfully so, the title, The Pope of the People. The Pope landed in Washington D,C Tuesday afternoon. He has spoken Wednesday morning, with the President of the United States at his side, declaring that,“I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment of history.”
Upper Darby is a part of ground zero for the Pope’s arrival in Philadelphia. Upper Darby Mayor Thomas Micozzie has been working for months on the transportation needs as the Upper Darby Transportation Center will be the hub of public transportation. He has put in hours of work whether it be with Homeland Security, the FBI and our own police department but as a Roman Catholic himself, he understands what the Pope’s visit means to others. Being Catholic a visit to the Philadelphia area as well as America at this critical time in Catholic history symbolizes Pope Francis awareness of many Catholic concerns of our future. I am sure the thousands of Catholics in our region will send a clear message of our continued faith.” James Santora, Pennsylvania State Representative of 163rd District, has said that he is “very happy to have Pope Francis who is truly working to transform the Catholic Church come to our area.” Like many in the area, Rep. Santora remembers watching Pope John Paul II when he made his visit to the area in 1979 on television but now “I have the good fortune of going to the Papal mass with his wife and my two younger children and experience it live.”
The Pope’s visit here is not a random outing. It is part of the week long events called the World Meeting of Families. The conference was conceived by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and the first conference held was in 1994. According to the World Meeting of Families website, the conference” has a theme that energizes and enlivens the event while adding great depth of meaning to our understanding of families. The theme of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 is Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society.” For Catholics in our area, the visit by the Pope by is a spiritually uplifting experience. For members of the Christian faith it is an opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ.
“Love is our mission, is what it is all about, “remarked Judith Bloxton who has been a member of St. Laurence Roman Catholic Church in the Highland Park section of Upper Darby for over 50 years. The Pope visiting our region is “a fulfillment of a lifelong dream, people should stop and consider that this Pope is following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Francis Ranieri, also a member of St. Laurence Parish is excited by the Pope’s visit and said “He will bring his message of peace and compassion. She continued that his visit “will reinforce the stability of the family unit.” The visit to the Philadelphia region, according to Marc Manfre, Director of Delaware County Parks and Recreation, also a lifelong member of the St. Laurence Parish, that “We have the chance to show the world what a great place Philadelphia is to work and live. Continuing, “I believe having the Pope visit this area creates unity and harmony.” Amen to that.