The Pope's Visit to Philly

What Philly families need to know about events and logistics when the pope comes to town

More than a million visitors will flock to Philly Sept. 22-25 for the triennial World Meeting of Families. The world’s largest gathering of Catholic families culminates in an event larger than any in city memory: a visit from Pope Francis, Sept. 26-27. In honor of the momentous occasion, festivities will extend past activities hosted by the WMF to exhibits at many of our favorite local cultural venues. After you check out the special papacy-centric programming, make time for kid-friendly exploration at each spot.

World Meeting of Families Events

The Pope’s visit is the capstone of this triennial congress. Founded in 1994, the WMF is a multi-day gathering at which Catholic families from all over the world meet and pray together to discuss “the Christian family’s role in the church and society.” In 2013 Pope “Emeritus” Benedict XVI selected Philadelphia as the conference’s site. This marks the first time the WMF will take place in the United States.

World Meeting of Families Film Festival (Sept. 22-25)
Grab a seat at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater for Philly- and religiously themed movies curated by the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. Picks include The Mighty Macs, The Wizard of Oz and Diary of a City Priest. On Sept. 25, bring a blanket to Dilworth Park for a free sing-along screening of Mary Poppins.

World Meeting of Families Youth Congress (Sept. 22-25)
For kids of parents attending the Adult Congress, this event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center will play host to a variety of activities and games, for which families must register and pay at the WMF website ( Kids ages 6 and up can embark on a sacramental scavenger hunt and assemble a take-home time capsule, while teens play Wii bowling and b-ball with local priests and seminarians.

Festival of Families (Sept. 26)
The main WMF event brings performances by Andrea Bocelli, Juanes and the Philadelphia Orchestra to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. A second stage will feature performances by cultural groups and spiritual organizations. Pope Francis will attend the show at 7:30pm prior to presiding over a Mass on the Parkway Sept. 27 at 4pm, accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Local Papal-themed Exhibits

Getting around: While SEPTA and PATCO will operate on normal schedules during the week, only those with Papal Passes, handed out using a lottery system last month, can make use of the 16 SEPTA stations open on the weekend. PATCO riders with a Freedom card will pay $2.50 per ride, and non-cardholders should buy a one- or two-day pass at To avoid bridge closures, jam-packed roads and limited parking, your best bet is to travel on foot. For real-time updates on transportation and event locations, sign up for a Papal Visit Playbook at

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and AnthropologySacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World (Aug. 15-Nov. 7)
See the oldest-known fragments of the Gospel of St. Matthew — dating back to the 3rd century — plus an ancient clay cuneiform tablet that describes a flood that parallels the biblical story of Noah.
While you’re there: Discover cultural artifacts from ancient civilizations around the globe, like the third-largest sphinx in the world: Weighing in at 12 tons, it stands as the centerpiece of a preserved royal palace in the Egyptian Lower Gallery.

Academy of Natural Sciences: The Clergy and the Academy’s Collections (Aug. 31-Oct. 25)
This environmental-themed exhibit highlights books, plant & animal specimens and archival materials created by “clergy naturalists.” Take advantage of extended Library Gallery hours Sept. 23-25 (10am-4pm), but be aware: The museum plans to close during the Pope’s weekend visit.
While you’re there: Strap on your protective goggles and grab a chisel to hunt for bones at the Big Dig, then watch paleontologists in action at the Fossil Prep Lab.

Free Library of Philadelphia: Sacred Stories: Spiritual Books (Aug. 31-Jan. 30)
Catch a glimpse of the Parkway Central branch’s collection of rare books and manuscripts, including two leaves of an original Gutenberg Bible and the first Qur’an printed in English.
While you’re there: Follow the colorful footprints down to the kids’ section to browse a diverse selection of books and DVDs.

Rosenbach Museum & Library: Catholics in the New World (Sept. 1-Jan. 30)
Catholics’ “evolving relationship” with the Americas is showcased in a display that features some of the oldest religious books printed in the Western hemisphere, dating back to the 16th century. The museum plans to close during the Pope’s weekend visit.
While you’re there: Among the museum’s archive of rare works is the original manuscript of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as well as other art novelties bookish kids will like.

The Franklin Institute: Vatican Splendors (Sept. 19-Feb. 15)
View more than 200 Renaissance and Baroque artworks and objects from the Vatican’s collection. The pieces span 2,000 years and illustrate the Church’s cultural impact and history.
While you’re there: Walk through the super-popular Giant Heart exhibit, where visitors can watch open-heart surgery and learn how a human skeleton works.

For more background, closures and activities during the World Meeting of Families, see Papal Visit Playbook for Families.

Categories: Family Fun Features