Updated August 10

In his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia in September and officials say he’ll draw more than a million tourists to the city.

But how will the city handle the influx, and what are the details of how this might affect your life here in the city for a few days? City officials with the help of the Secret Service are still tight-lipped about security efforts. But they have revealed some information about the effect this visit could have on transportation.

We’ll keep track of what we know and what we don’t know about the upcoming visit; be sure to check back, as details are slowly trickling in about what will happen. Here’s a look at what that looks like as of July 6:

The basics

Who: Pope Francis, the popular leader of the Catholic church

What: The Pope and other church leaders will be in Philadelphia for two days to cap off the World Meeting of Families, an international Catholic conference that will take place all week leading up to the Papal visit.

When: World Meeting is Tuesday to Friday, Sept. 22 to 25

Papal visit is Sept. 26 and 27

Visitors: Officials have estimated that between one and two million people could visit Philly


The Vatican released the Pope’s official itinerary last week, showing that he’ll arrive in Philadelphia at about 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 26 after stops in Washington, D.C. to visit Congress and in New York to address the United Nations. Once he’s here, this is what will happen:


10:30 a.m.: The Pope will arrive in Philadelphia and hold a mass with bishops, priests and clergy at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul on the Parkway.

4:45 p.m.: At Independence Mall, Pope Francis will meet with immigrants and speak about religious freedom.

7:30 p.m.: Pope Francis will make his way to the Parkway to swing by Saturday’s Festival of Families, the final events of the World Meeting of Families. Opera star Andrea Bocelli and Colombian pop singer Juanes will perform.


9:15 a.m.: The Pope will meet with other religious leaders in Montgomery County at St. Charles Borromeo and he’ll visit St. Martin’s Chapel while there.

11 a.m.: He’ll then visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Holmesburg.

4 p.m.: This is the big one. Pope Francis will hold an open mass on the Parkway.

7 p.m.: The Pope will meet with World Meeting of Families officials at the airport and then fly home.


What we know:

What we don’t know:

  • Where will the Pope be staying while he’s here?
  • Whatever happened with this Vatican official who’s in charge of the World Meeting of Families being charged with embezzlement? Will it have an effect on the events?


What we know:

  • The United States Secret Service is calling the shots here when it comes to security, and according to Plan Philly, won’t be releasing specifics about the visit any time soon.
  • It’s safe to say that there will be road closures, security checkpoints and lists of what you can (and can’t) bring along to see the Pope in downtown Philadelphia.
  • There *will* be a Pope fence, Mayor Michael Nutter confirmed to The Inquirer. However, contrary to various reports, the fence will not encircle all of Center City. Nutter said a fence — height yet to be determined — will be set up in areas where the Pope will be, consistent with what many cities do during large events.
  • The Ben Franklin Bridge will be shut down.
  • Speculation has been abound about what parts of Center City will be under a no-vehicle security perimeter. A source told Billy Penn the boundaries will likely fall as such: Girard to Ridge to Spring Garden to the north, South Street to the south, the Delaware River to the east and 38th Street to the west.
new pope boundaries

However, shortly after Billy Penn released a map of the boundaries, Mayor Michael Nutter called a press conference and said “no official security perimeter has been announced or finally determined.” He was asked about maps on the internet and denied that any security maps were final. He said plans would eventually be released but did not give an estimate as to when that would happen.

  • On August 5, Nutter held a press conference and released further details about the “traffic box” in Center City (see above.) What the traffic box indicates is that anyone who lives inside those boundaries may drive freely within them, but anyone who drives their car outside of the boundaries cannot drive it back in.
  • Walking and biking will be allowed within the traffic box.


What we know:

  • Philadelphia residents should plan to walk miles to get to locations throughout the city because public transportation will be heavily backed up — driving private cars in the city probably won’t be an option.
  • The Broad Street and Market Frankford lines, as well as the Regional Rail, will stop at only 31 of the network’s 280 rail stations so that all trains can be used in a high-speed capacity and can be quickly recycled. Find a map of this here.
  • Special Pope visit passes or pre-ordered reservations for the Regional Rail will be required, and anyone who didn’t pre-register their spot on the train will not be let on. Those passes will be given out via a lottery system, and more information on that can be found here.
  • There are about 175,000 passes available for each day of the Papal visit, or about 350,000 total for Sept. 26 and 27 combined, according to SEPTA.
  • NJ TRANSIT’s regular weekend service on the Atlantic City Rail Line and River Line will not operate on the weekend of the Papal visit — special tickets will be sold.
  • PATCO will provide westbound service to 9th/ 10th and Locust Streets station via four NJ stops. They’re listed here.
  • At PHL, airport officials are anticipating the Papal visit will be something like a Thanksgiving weekend.

What we don’t know:

  • Will Indego add more stations? It could see increased use as it’ll be hard for residents to get around any way other than walking or biking.
  • Where will everyone park? The city is expecting 5,000 commercial vehicles alone, and there’s a registration process.


Even though local leaders want businesses to stay open during the September Papal visit in Philadelphia, many of expressed reluctance for fear of logistics and how to handle the millions of people expected to be in the city.

Some schools have already announced closures, while major Philadelphia establishments like Reading Terminal Market are mulling whether or not it’s worth it to stay open and face potentially massive crowds of Papal pilgrims.


Philadelphia Public Schools – Students could be looking at a five-day weekend as the Superintendent has put in a request to shut down for three days prior to the Papal visit. Schools are already closed Wednesday, Sept. 23 for Yom Kippur and Friday Sept. 25 for the Papal visit. Students are also expected to receive a third day off on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Philadelphia Archdiocese Schools – Schools in the Archdiocese will be closed Wednesday through Friday so that students and staff can attend World Meeting of Families festivities.

Community College of Philadelphia – Closed Friday, Sept. 25 and Saturday, Sept. 26.

Drexel UniversityClasses canceled Friday, Sept. 25 to Sunday, Sept. 27.

Rutgers-Camden – Classes and operations canceled Thursday and Friday, Sept. 24 and 25. Normal operations will resume at about 12:30 p.m. Monday.

Temple UniversityClosed Friday, Sept. 25.

University of Pennsylvania – Classes and normal operations canceled Friday, Sept. 25.

Photo: Photoshop, obviously.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.