In less than two weeks, a man of God is coming to town and all Hell is breaking loose in
anticipation. Pope Francis is coming to America, particularly to Philadelphia and his pending arrival has set the entire region into a frenzy of planning and anticipation. I wonder if it was like that thousands of years ago in a small town in the Middle East.
Probably not, I’m thinking. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that fateful Sunday, many at the time heralded him as a revolutionary figure to right the wrongs perpetrated by Roman authority. His arrival wasn’t planned for or anticipated by that authority but rather was
celebrated by the downtrodden. Here in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, the differences are stark as it appears by all accounts that the “Romans” of today are in charge.
It’s an understandable problem of security, of course. Outspoken and deliberate, like Jesus Francis is a Pope that doesn’t suffer anyone making a buck off the backs of the poor and one who doesn’t shy away from the hard statements to those he deems as preying on those who can’t speak for themselves. And that makes him a very dangerous man to some.
And like The Son, many are clamoring to get to Philly hopefully close enough to shake his hand or to just simply get a glimpse of him. That’s where the Hell comes in; the pain of impending gridlock and isolation. And if such considerations weren’t bad enough, I heard something last week that took it into a whole new stratosphere.
First though, let me explain that Philadelphia, in cooperation with the entire region, has planned to throw a 3-mile cordon around Center City affecting the free flow of commuter travel, in areas where the Pope will be roving. Government agencies-Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, DEA-as well as local law enforcement have been communicating and planning for weeks in anticipation of the throngs of faithful arriving the weekend of September 26th.
Major roadways will be closed. Buses and trains will be removed from service. Even the Bennie-The Ben Franklin Bridge-a major thoroughfare between PA and NJ will be closed for the entire weekend.
So, instead of palms laid at his feet when he arrives, we’ll have welded manhole covers; snipers positioned strategically on rooftops in the area of his speeches. Rather than palms waving in the air, a sign of respect and adulation, we’ll have armed guards patrolling and restricting the movements of the faithful. And in the place of people clamoring and traveling freely to get as close as they can, we’ve held a lottery to sell tickets. But even that isn’t what galls me.
This past week, free tickets to the Papal Mass became available online and “sold out” in a matter of minutes; in some instances, in seconds. And in what has to be fodder for a Sunday sermon, many of those same tickets showed up on EBay. According to reports, one group of four was listed, the “owner” asking $4,000 for them. Since the initial offering, EBay has removed any further Papal Mass ticket sale listings.
The biggest sadness of all of this is the absence of the ability to just come up to the man and speak to him, something I think he’d really appreciate as a pie-loving ex-bouncer. We see these pictures from around the world; people running to greet him, calling him “Papa” and giving him pizza, him holding hands with the little children, speaking to people like a friend rather than the head of the church. We witness this and wish that it could be us and ours doing the same. I know I did, absentee catholic that I am.
Alas, we’re not in the Vatican nor are we in a third world country. Here, the money-changers run the show and always for profit. So we’ll get through the weekend with a little help from above and a whole lot of police and security all around. Hey, maybe if Jesus had the same protection back then perhaps things would be a whole lot different today.
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