Over-preparing for the Pope's visit

Image By: Photo courtesy of the Catholic Church of England and Wales via Creative commons

Pope Francis has been a highly popular and controversial papal head, as evidenced by his seemingly “radical” stances on issues such as the environment, the migrant crisis and trickle-down economics, instead stressing forgiveness for lifestyle choices and topics that the Catholic Church has traditionally looked down upon, such as homosexuality or abortion. As such, his tour to the United States is considered a big turning point for international affairs and his relationship with American Catholics.

History will be made Tuesday, September 22nd when Pope Francis visits the United States for the first time. The pontiff will arrive in Washington at 4:00 p.m. for a very busy six-day visit to the East Coast. In Washington alone he will attend several public events, a private meeting with President Obama and will speak at a joint meeting of Congress. On Thursday, Pope Francis will travel to New York City. Here, the Pope will take the time to speak at a meeting of the United Nations, perform mass at Madison Square Garden and lead an interfaith service at the Ground Zero site. From New York, he will venture to the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, where the main events of his visit will occur. On Saturday, the Pope will speak at Independence Hall before the celebrating at the Festival of Families, an annual event that celebrates family, community and faith, and on Sunday he will lead a mass for hundreds of thousands of people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million people will attend his closing ceremony following mass in Philadelphia.

With all of the excitement surrounding this visit from the leader of the Catholic Church, there will also be several major headaches. In Washington, city officials have already advised people to work from home if possible due to the road closures that will occur. A large part of downtown Washington and the interstate system leading into the city will be closed during the Pope’s visit. The same is true in New York, where trying to get to anywhere within a few blocks of the Pope will be nearly impossible. And the headaches will become migraines for those living in and around Philadelphia. City officials have taken it to the extreme and are completely shutting down numerous bridges and streets leading into and around the city for the entirety of the visit. To complicate things even further, one won’t be allowed within a five-block radius of Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia without a ticket to one of his events.

Another, much less public stressor the Pope is going to cause stems from his necessary security. The FBI and the Secret Service have said that they have been preparing for his arrival in the U.S. for more than nine months. Extra checks on backpacks, briefcases and persons themselves will be performed at numerous checkpoints while traveling through each prospective city, yet another inconvenience for those city goers who will be in the city at the same time.

These changes to regular daily life for citizens in these metropolitan areas seem excessive. Is it really necessary to shut down entire areas of a city for one man? Yes, he may be the leader of one of the world’s major religions, but his visit does not pertain to everyone. According to the Pew Research Center, only 20 percent of people living in Washington D.C., 31 percent of people in the entire state of New York, and 24 percent of people in the state of Pennsylvania identify as Catholic. These percentages make it even more absurd that city life will be paused for his visit. Why shut down the whole city when this visit pertains to less than a quarter of the population? Even more so, why go to such lengths for security preparations when the Secret Service chief has reported that there isn’t “a single credible threat on the pontiff?”

Such a fuss over a six-day publicity tour seems ridiculous, and shows insecurity. Government officials have blown this visit way out of proportion. Those living in these major cities should be outraged that they have to change their entire routines to accommodate one man’s schedule. In the future, I hope that a visit from the pontiff is to be handled in a much smaller-scale manner. Why not have him speak in the countryside? Sure, he may want to see the great cities of this great country, but let him do that on his own time, not on the time of the millions of people whose work weeks will be turned upside down because of his presence, especially when a great majority of these Americans will not even bat an eyelash on the Pope’s behalf.

Jack is a freshman majoring in journalism. Should the security measures in place for Pope Francis’ visit be lessened for convenience? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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