Donna Crilley Farrell

Here’s why the Papal Mass needed a ticketing system: Security.

Those restrictions for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway meant the World Meeting of Families needed to create a ticketed section for the best seats to see Pope Francis deliver his outdoor mass.

World Meeting of Families Executive Director Donna Crilley Farrell fielded questions today about why, just three weeks before the massive Papal visit, everyone suddenly learned that a large swath of the Parkway will be only for ticket-holders — and the only way to get a ticket is to be a member of a local Catholic parish.

Farrell refused on several occasions to say how many tickets are being distributed for the large part of the Parkway — from the Art Museum to 20th Street — and also wouldn’t answer questions about why the information surrounding ticketing was released just three weeks prior to the event.

She did say that the World Meeting of Families had no idea the Secret Service was going to release its map yesterday that outlined the “ticketed area.” Indeed, organizers hadn’t planned to release information about ticketing until after Labor Day.

“We’re sorry, I’m sorry (that) people are concerned,” Farrell said. “We hear the concerns and we understand. (But) the vast majority of the Parkway really is open, and they can come. We care about it.”

Farrell did make two announcements regarding accessibility: One is that, in addition to the unknown number of tickets being passed out to church members, there will be an additional 30,000 tickets available to the public for the Papal mass and the Saturday event at Independence Hall that will be distributed “on a first come, first served” basis. The tickets will be available online, with a maximum of four tickets per person. More details will come later on.

Farrell also noted that even if your view for the Papal mass looks like this because you didn’t get a coveted ticket, there will be two additional opportunities to get a glimpse of the Pontiff. He’ll be a part of two “parades” that will take place: one is Saturday, and the Pope will drive up the Parkway and around City Hall. The second parade, to take place Sunday, is still being worked out in terms of a route and logistics.

The announcements from the World Meeting of Families came from Farrell — who addressed media alone and without a noticeably absent Mayor Michael Nutter — just minutes after Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association Ed Grose addressed media. He said hotels have fielded cancellations in light of the most recent mass restrictions, and said: “When you introduce ticketing this late in the game, it’s just not fair.”

Farrell, who resisted the notion that it will be difficult to see the Papal mass from a solid five blocks away, said on several occasions that 85 percent of the Parkway is open to the public. However, when measured based on square footage, the Parkway would have to stretch to Columbus Boulevard in Pennsport for the ticketed area to only take up 15 percent of the Parkway.

When asked by a reporter at the press conference today how officials were coming up with that number, Farrell dodged, saying only: “we look at everything with the city and the event producer, and when we look at the area that’s ticketed, that’s what we come to based on projections for the event.”

“We are all focused and energized and ready to execute a spectacular event,” Farrell said. “And there are so many pieces to this, and we understand why people would be concerned. And we take those concerns so seriously. But we really believe that, in the end, this is all going to come together.”

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