The Pope in Philly

Surprise! Don’t expect Pope Francis to stick to his Philly itinerary next week

That could mean improvised visits to parts of the city far from the glitz and the tourist sites.

The Pope's surprise visit to a Roman shantytown.

The Pope's surprise visit to a Roman shantytown.

Pope Francis’ itinerary for next week’s visit appears to be set. Among other stops and activities, he’ll give a speech at Independence Hall, visit prisoners at CFC and perform an outdoor mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

But if his trip to Philadelphia is anything like his previous trips as pope, he might take a detour and go to North Philly. Or Kingsessing. Or perhaps not far from the Art Museum in Mantua.

Francis is the pope of surprises. Rather than stick to plans that have been hashed out for months by the Vatican and security details, he likes to improvise. And for him, that could mean improvised visits to parts of the city far from the glitz and the tourist sites, to the forgotten areas he used to serve as a Jesuit who undertook a vow of poverty in Argentina.

Here’s a guide to some of the pope’s previous international visits and the unscheduled detours he’s made to be with the working class or impoverished people of each city. 

Manila, Philippines, January 2015

One Friday morning after Pope Francis gave mass at a cathedral in Manila, he decided to walk around the corner and visit a shelter for impoverished children. The visit was short notice: Vatican security went to the shelter about 30 minutes before the pope arrived. He only stayed for about 10 minutes, but that was enough time to talk and take pictures with hundreds of children.

Quito, Ecuador, July 2015

Francis was spending the night at the residence of the Vatican’s ambassador to Ecuador during this trip. He had been inside for several hours, and dozens of Catholics waiting outside started chanting, “Come out Pope.” And he gave them a curtain call and more. Francis came out to thank the crowd and lead them in a Hail Mary. Then he told them to “let the neighborhood sleep.” 

Bethlehem, Israel, May 2014

There’s a wall separating Israel from the state of Palestine in the West Bank. Francis stopped at this controversial area, standing below graffiti comparing the plight of the Palestinians to the Jews during World War II, and rested his forehead against it, praying. During that trip, he called for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and invited leaders from both sides to the Vatican. Francis later made an impromptu visit to an Israeli terrorism victims memorial after pressure from the Israelis.

Daejeon, South Korea, August 2014

Francis was supposed to travel from Seoul to Daejeon aboard a helicopter offered by South Korea’s president. But he opted to travel on a regular passenger train with 500 other people instead. Then as soon as he arrived at Daejeon station he blessed a 5-year-old.

Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 2015

Pope Francis pulled the ultimate “when in Rome” while visiting Sri Lanka. This Catholic leader decided to all of a sudden to visit a Buddhist temple. He hung out with a few Buddhist monks, and they showed him some cool statues and sang for him.

Rome, Italy, February, 2015

He also does surprising things at home. Earlier this year, Francis was on his way to celebrate mass at a parish in Rome and asked if he could stop by a shantytown known as Camp Rainbow. There, he spoke to dozens of impoverished immigrants, many from his native South America.

Want some more? Explore other The Pope in Philly stories.

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