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FunTimes Magazine

Pope Francis Visits Philadelphia: What the people say!

By now you have no doubt heard the news that Pope Francis will make his first ever U.S. visit to Philadelphia during the 8th Annual World Council of Families this September -- the world's largest gathering of Catholic families. Several key organizations and members of the clergy are taking steps to make sure that the Pope's visit isn't just Pope and circumstance (pardon the pun). Over 2 million people are expected to attend the week long event where issues about family and community will be discussed by a panel of delegates who will be as diverse in origin as the visitors who will listen to them speak.

Naturally, Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter and other officials were elated at the news and so are local businesses who can expect an increase in foot traffic during the papal visit.

Speaking of foot traffic, transportation looks like a sticky situation during the visit with the Mayor calling for people to prepare to walk up to 3 miles to their locations during this historic event.

Can the Nation's Fifth Largest City Host a Successful Visit?

"The City of Philadelphia is exceptionally experienced at hosting big events -- from the Wawa Welcome America! and Made in America music festivals to sporting events such as the Philadelphia Marathon, Philadelphia International Cycling Classic and the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run. We know what we need to do to prepare for the World Meeting of Families Philadelphia 2015 and the visit from his Holiness Pope Francis," said Nutter.

Although people are feeling festive about the visit, and the city hopes to make it just that, the World Council of Families has an important and serious agenda.

Since its founding in 1994 by the Pope, the council has engaged members of the world community in dialogue about family issues and the concerns they face. Philadelphia's families, like others, are hard hit by challenges to the family unit.

"The family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world; it is the leaven of society," said Pope Francis in October 27, 2011

Issues Facing Families

While many families in Philadelphia are beginning to experience the fruit of an improved economy where businesses are slowly beginning to hire again and people are going back to work, there are still quite a few persistent problems which threaten the family unit.

Issues persist such as deep-poverty; Philadelphia ranks highest in the nation for having the largest number of residents living in deep-poverty which is defined as families which live on less than half of the poverty level.

If families are the building blocks of society, then education is the foundation of a healthy, prosperous family. Last year Philadelphia experienced such a crisis in its education funding that it had to close over 20 schools, causing protests and marches throughout the city. Some schools lack inadequate staff, others have eliminated after school activities, and most public schools have had their budget cut to the bone

In the Pennsylvania prison system, a disproportionate number of inmates come from Philadelphia. This has also been a persistent concern of families sapping their quality of life.


Faith-based Organizations Prepare

While officials get ready for the historic visit, members of the local clergy, nonprofit organizations and concerned citizens are mobilizing to make the most of the opportunity to address the many real issues facing residents of the city. Bishop Dwayne Royster is a member of People Improving Communities through Organizing's (PICO) national network which he says is the largest faith-based organizing network in the nation.

"We actually went to the Vatican two and a half weeks ago and spent time speaking with papal advisors talking with them about the Pope's upcoming visit to Philadelphia, New York and D.C.," Royster said.

Royster reported that the group visited the Vatican along with a delegation of other groups including Philadelphians Organized to Witness, and Empower & Rebuild (POWER) with which Royster serves as executive director, a part of the PICO network. "It was to bring the voices of some ofthe people who suffer the deepest in our country," said Royster. Former undocumented residents, formerly incarcerated persons, low-wage workers which included an employee in the fast food industry and a home care worker joined them on their trip.

"We took them so that they could tell their stories to the papal advisors as well so that when the Pope comes to Philadelphia he'll understand the struggle of people in this country.

"This was done, as well," said Royster, "to send the message that, if he comes to this nation to address issues of social justice, yet fails to discuss the problem of race, than he would in affect not have addressed the problem confronting a significant number of people in this country.

"We've got to address the issue of 54-1-241x300race and racism in this country as a real problem leading to poverty and marginalization," he said.

Rev.Terrence D. Griffith is resident of the Philadelphia Black Clergy and Vicinity as well as pastor of the historic, 203 year old First African Baptist Church. Rev. Griffith said that he was asked to do facilitate a workshop on the topic of urban families.

"This is a visit primarily to rally Catholic brothers and sisters together. For the entire city, economically, it will be great for Philadelphia as we expecting about 2 million people to come," said Griffith. Griffith said that Pope Francis is on the cutting-edge of social issues and very progressive.

"I think that for the religious community this is a very significant visit," he said.


What does Griffith hope would be the practical result of the Pope's visit? "I hope that by his visit we can realize that the family is the first institution that God created, not the church but the family and we need to get back to the basics. For any society to be strong and stable," Griffith said, "it will first have to have strong and stable families."

"So we need to return to that family structure. I hope that by the end of his visit that we come to realize that family is important to the development of society," Griffith said.

The Pope will be in town September 26th and 27th and will discuss such things as the environment, religious freedom and immigration during his stop at Independence Mall.

The Pope also will visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, known as CFCF to many residents of the city, where he will meet with selected prisoners and their families.

Oneness: A Celebration of Black Catholics

by Beatrice Joyner

The number of black Catholics is increasing worldwide, especially on the continent of Africa. This World Council of Families gathering takes another critical look at the role of families in society and the challenges they face.

One event to look for will be Bea Joyner's photo exhibit entitled: "Oneness: A Celebration of Black Catholics." Ms. Joyner may be the only photographer documenting Black Catholic life and this exhibit is especially timely as people are trying to understand Catholicism. There are approximately three million Black Catholics in the United States, an important and vital aspect of the Black community, which has largely been ignored. Her photographs are a reflection of the richness and variety that exists in the Catholic community. They show, as with any church, Catholics are simply people seeking to understand God.

Oneness (Part 1)

I say my prayers at night but it's not 55-2-229x300enough to give me the oneness I need. So I talk to the Lord as I go about my day giving praise and thanks for all he sends my way.

There is good and there is bad, Each having its place, for without the bad, how could I appreciate the good. Two halves do make a whole. In order truly appreciate my highs I have to look up from my lows seeking oneness.

I don't always understand why things go as they do but I know "Thy will be done.. "even though I keep meddling in God's affairs.

I try hard to turn things over to Him saying "...but just let me do this one more thing." As the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the soup." Thankfully, God understands this child of His and forgives my meddling ways. It's the oneness that I seek. How will I know if I succeed? I think that is easy to understand. It won't be me who answers. It won't be He who calls. There will only be the oneness. Amen.

Beatrice Joyner Photo and Poem copyrighted 1993 



Speaking from the perspective of a Catholic school educated, African American Catholic, as well as a person who loves Philly, I am delighted this Pope is coming to Philadelphia. I say "this" Pope because this is an individual who truly cares about mankind. He urges all of us to help lessen the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots," he urges us to look out for each other, to love one another, and just to be a good person. He is a good and humble man who uses his position for good.
-Donna Monroe


The Pope's visit is great. On behalf of my family I welcome the Pope to Philly and wish him the best. 

-Simeon Nwosu


We happily welcome the Pope for making time to visit us in Philly. It is a blessing.

-Chief John Nzeribe


The Pope coming to Philadelphia will be a great opportunity for people from different cultures to come together peacefully. 

-Tiffany Metts, Cape Verde 


Growing up in Jamaica, I've heard about how important the Pope's role is, as he is a world figure who not only teaches Christian beliefs to the masses, but is deeply involved in charitable work. I am ecstatic to be able to witness such a historic moment as the Pope Francis visit to our city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. Our city will be booming from this event and it'll be exciting to be a part of it! 

-Melissa Gordon, Jamaica 


My opinion on the Pope visiting America is that it's a great joy to see the Holy Father come all the way from Rome to visit us here in the United States. We're very much appreciative of him visiting us and we're glad that we're going to make his days here very successful. My expectations I have of the Holy Father is he's going to bless us and we're going to have fun with him. His coming here is a blessing we're 1 out of 50 states and he's coming here to Philadelphia. That is great.


This is a wonderful opportunity to have Pope Francis in the Philadelphia area, the City of Brotherly love. We congratulate and appreciate his good works, and will pray for his reign to last long.


I think the coming of the Pope will be a great blessing to the city of Philadelphia and to our families. We're expecting so many things of the Pope. Thinking of what do we say on families and marriages? We bring healing to families and married people.

 I think it's great that the Pope is visiting the U.S. especially given his stance on accepting people and science -- they're messages many need to hear.

-Martine Saintvil, Haiti


I'm glad to see the various Christian denominations come together in support of families. The family is the basic foundation of life where our values, pure ethics, education, and more begin. The Pope as one individual coming to the U.S. under the family initiative sends a strong message toward reaching this positive goal in a society yearning for spiritual healing. Let us remove our differences in this journey and I pray in Jesus' name the Pope's visit leads us to this end. Amen.

- Debbie Butler


I believe the visit of the Pope will be a good time for the Christian and colleagues to be aware once more what it like is to be a family. I'm very happy that he's coming at this point in time. The Pope will help us to understand better what the family means.