How To See Pope Francis During His U.S. Visit

Pope Francis will make his first visit to the U.S. in September, stopping in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. It will be a busy six days for the pontiff, but there will be several opportunities for those eager to catch a glimpse of the man in the flesh.

Make your plans early, though, because public events are expected to be inundated and accommodations are quickly running out.

Chris Minerva

Quick look: Your best shot to see the pope is Wednesday's Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Check on the Archdiocese of Washington's website for updates, and inquire at your local parish.

Tuesday, September 22

  • 4 p.m.: Pope arrives at Joint Base Andrews and is greeted by President Obama and other dignitaries.

Wednesday, September 23

  • 9:15 a.m.: Welcoming ceremony on South Lawn of the White House; brief remarks from Pope Francis and President Barack Obama followed by a private meeting with the president
  • 11:30 a.m.: Midday prayer with the bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral
  • 4:15 p.m.: Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra, on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the University Mall at the Catholic University of America. Tickets will be distributed through the Archdiocese of Washington to parishes, but information about logistics have not been released. Sign up for updates on the archdiocese's website here.

Thursday, September 24

  • 9:20 a.m.: Address to joint session of the United States Congress, which will be broadcast live to members of the public on the West Front of the Capitol
  • 10:15 a.m.: Possible brief appearance on the Mall from the Capitol’s West Front
  • 11:15 a.m.: Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
  • 12 p.m.: Blessing and brief remarks to the clients gathered at lunchtime for the St. Maria Meals Program of Catholic Charities
  • 4 p.m.: Depart from Joint Base Andrews
Tetra Images

Quick look: Friday's multireligious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will have limited tickets available for members of the 9/11 community, including victims’ families, survivors, rescuers and recovery workers. Some members of New York parishes will also be able to get tickets to the pope's Mass later that evening at Madison Square Garden.

Thursday, September 24

  • 5 p.m.: Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 6:45 p.m.: Evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Friday, September 25

  • 8:30 a.m.: Address to the United Nations General Assembly
  • 11:30 a.m.: Multireligious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center. A ticket lottery will be open to several hundred members from the 9/11 community (family members who lost loved ones in the 2001 and 1993 attacks, survivors, rescuers and recovery workers, first responders and members of the lower Manhattan community). Representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other faith groups will also be in attendance, according to the Archdiocese of New York. Check here for more information.
  • 4 p.m.: Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem, followed by a ride through Central Park. Tens of thousands of tickets will be available for the public to view the pope's procession and can be won by visiting the city's website or by calling 311 before Sept. 7.
  • 6 p.m.: Mass at Madison Square Garden. Limited tickets will available to parishes in the Archdiocese of New York, and blocks of tickets will also be sent to the other seven dioceses in New York State, as well as to the other dioceses neighboring the Archdiocese (like Newark and Bridgeport), according to the Archdiocese of New York. Tickets to papal events are always free of charges, the archdiocese noted. Inquire with your local parish.
Ed Gifford

Quick look: If you can brave the million-strong crowds, Philadelphia is your best chance to see the pope in person during his U.S. trip. Francis will deliver two public Masses on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Tickets are not required.

Saturday, September 26

  • 8:40 a.m.: Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 9:30 a.m.: Private arrival at Atlantic Aviation, Philadelphia
  • 10:30 a.m.: Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Limited seating is available to clergy and parishioners of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The event will be privately ticketed.
  • 4:45 p.m.: Visit to Independence Mall and address to immigrants from the historic site on the themes of religious liberty and immigration. There were reportedly 10,000 tickets available to the public on a first come, first serve basis at Tickets sold out shortly after becoming available at noon on Tuesday Sept. 8. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the World Meeting of Families are distributing another set of tickets to "ethnic apostolates and immigrant communities" through the Archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries.
  • 7:30 p.m.: Visit to the Festival of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This is open to the public and will have designated entry points along the parkway. Tickets are required in the area closest to where Pope Francis will be on the parkway, 20 Street – Eakins Oval. Tickets will be distributed to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s 219 parishes, as well as to representatives from surrounding dioceses, Project H.O.M.E., ministerial outreach programs of Catholic Social Services and representatives of other faith communities within the Philadelphia region. All other areas will not require tickets.
  • The pope's airport arrival, the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the speech at Independence Hall and the Festival of Families will also be broadcast on Jumbotron screens across the city on Saturday, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Sunday, September 27

  • 9:15 a.m.: Meeting with bishops and cardinals at at St. Martin’s Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
  • 11 a.m.: Visit to prisoners and some of their families at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
  • 4 p.m.: Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This is open to the public, but will have the same ticket requirements as Saturday's address on the parkway.
  • 7 p.m.: Visit with organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation. Roughly 500 organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families will be eligible for tickets distributed at the discretion of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015.
  • 8 p.m.: Departure for Rome

Getting around

  • Multiple sources have said that driving a car into the city is strongly discouraged and people should anticipate walking up to several miles to get around. The Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which goes from Camden, New Jersey to Philadelphia, will be closed to vehicles from approximately 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25 until noon on Monday, Sept. 28. Several highways will also be closed.
  • The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will operate trains from 18 designated regional rail stations. These trains will enter Philadelphia at Jefferson Station, University City Station and 30th Street Station. Anyone using regional rail will need to purchase a Special One Day Regional Rail Pass available at select outlying stations and at Jefferson and Suburban Station ticket offices. For other forms of transit -- including several subway lines, trolley routes and buses -- riders must have a pre-purchased, three-day Papal Visit pass. Regular weekly and monthly fare passes and tokens will be accepted on the Market Frankford and Broad Street lines, some trolleys, and all buses. The three-day pass will be the only fare accepted on Route 101/102 Trolleys and the Norristown High Speed Line. Bicycles will not be permitted on trolleys or trains during the papal weekend. Check SEPTA's website for more information.
  • PATCO (Train service from New Jersey) also requires a special one-day (or two-day) pass for the weekend of September 26-27. Stations open on the papal weekend will be at Lindenwold, Woodcrest, Ferry Avenue, Broadway and Ninth/10th-Locust. Trains bound for Philadelphia will originate at each New Jersey location and go nonstop to Center City.
  • Amtrak and New Jersey Transit are also good rail options for getting into Philadelphia. NJ Transit will operate limited service on its Atlantic City Rail Line and River Line, and tickets must be purchased ahead of time.

Where to stay

  • The World Meeting of Families has created a website where people can list or find homestay accommodations for the papal weekend. Popedelphia has a similar sampling of homestay offerings.
  • You can also request pre-paid hotel accommodations through an online portal created by the World Meeting of Families, but several outlets report that hotel rooms in the city are almost all sold out for that weekend. As of July 20, Loew’s Philadelphia still had rooms available for $599/night.
  • Check listings on Airbnb, Craigslist and Couchsurfing, but watch out for scams. If you're willing to pay upwards of $1,000/night for a bed, this is a good option.
  • A Pilgrim's Journey is hosting several pilgrim packages for high school and college students, as well as for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Altoona-Johnstown and Erie.

This article will be updated as more information about the pope's U.S. visit becomes available. Carol Kuruvilla contributed reporting.

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