The U.S. will host Pope Francis September 22-27, and Americans and papal tourists are taking some extreme and creative measures in preparation.
The pope will visit Washington DC and New York City before culminating his visit in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. There he will deliver two public masses in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Philadelphia is the only city where Americans will be able to attend non-ticketed, public events with the pope -- thus putting ample pressure on the City of Brotherly Love to accommodate the masses expected to congregate there.
Here are some of the interesting ways people are preparing for the pontiff's visit:
Philadelphia residents are charging thousands of dollars for a room.
The pontiff's weekend stay in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families is bound to cause ample disruption for the city. At least a million people are expected to descend on the City of Brotherly Love to see the pope deliver Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway -- and quite a few need somewhere to stay. Some savvy residents are capitalizing on the demand by renting apartments, rooms and even couches out for thousands of dollars a night.
Church groups are planning to sleep in a zoo.
A church group from New Jersey is forgoing exorbitant hotel costs and Craiglist accommodations to sleep beside the animals at the Philadelphia Zoo. More than 200 congregants from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church will stay in the buildings the zoo's bird and insect exhibits reside. "A pilgrimage is a prayer experience and any discomfort that you’ll feel the excitement will be tenfold that,” Cathy Hunt, Director of Religious Education at the church, told NBC. According to Hunt, the zoo is charging the group $65 per person -- the same it charges for Boy Scouts groups.
City officials are closing subway stations and possibly even bridges.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, also known as SEPTA, is closing all but 18 of its 282 train stations over the weekend of the pope's visit. Those who want to ride the train at all will need to enter a lottery on August 3 to win one of 350,000 available tickets. City officials have also strongly encouraged people not to drive into the city, and the Ben Franklin Bridge may close altogether to motor vehicles. Bottom line: Be prepared to walk for miles to see the pope.
One town is declaring a "state of emergency."
Middletown Township, a city outside of Philadelphia in Bucks County, voted in July to declare a state of emergency during the pope's visit on September 26-27. The town's train station is one of five SEPTA outside of Philadelphia that will remain open over the weekend -- and officials are expecting up to 10,000 visitors to pass through on their way to see Pope Francis. Declaring a state of emergency will afford the town access to extra state and county resources to manage the influx of travelers.
The NFL worked its schedule around the pope's visit, too.
According to Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput sent a letter to the NFL commissioner in 2014 requesting that the Philadelphia Eagles be out of town for the pontiff's visit. The 2015-16 schedule reflects the same. NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz later admitted: "The pope did influence the NFL schedule," presumably to avoid additional congestion on top of what the city is already expecting for the weekend.
The New York Film Festival is postponing its opening night premieres.
Robert Zemeckis’ "The Walk," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will wait one day longer to make its world premiere during the New York Film Festival in September. The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced that Zemeckis' film would be shown on September 26 instead of September 25 due to logistical and security complications posed by the pope's New York visit.
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