Pope Francis passes by in a black Fiat in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by George Martell, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Boston

POPE WATCH: Exodus in Philly; telework miracle; security shutdown in Philly

(RNS) Welcome to our papal trip reporters' notebook. Stay tuned to the Pope Francis frequency with news updates, anecdotes and more daily at POPE WATCH.

Popadelphia

At last, Pope Francis has come to the City of Brotherly Love, the last of his U.S. stops. But will any Philadelphians be here to see him?

The Philadelphia Inquirer, the city's daily paper, reports that masses of city residents are leaving town, headed for the Jersey Shore and other points nonpapal.

"TO STAY OR FLEE?" the headline in Saturday's paper asks, then continues, "You could call it an exodus -- of sorts."

The paper reports that perhaps tens of thousands of Philadelphians have headed east to the beach.

"I can sit on my couch down here and watch the Mass instead of being in Philly," a resident named Kirk McGinnis told the paper. "It'll be just as great -- probably better."

No papal blessing for that guy.

The fruit of Francis' D.C. visit?

Will there be a long-standing lesson for Washingtonians from Pope Francis’ visit? One expert says it’s that teleworking, well, works. And it’s the antidote to gridlock.

Pope Francis passes by in a black Fiat in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by George Martell, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Boston

Pope Francis passes by in a black Fiat in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by George Martell, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Boston


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“Telework is the answer,” Lois DeMeester, the head of Mobility Lab, an Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group that researches transportation options, told Washington’s WAMU-FM on Friday (Sept. 25). “Yesterday definitely demonstrated that if people have the opportunity to telework they will take it.”

Scared away by traffic experts' comparisons to snowstorms and inaugurations, many people didn’t even attempt to hit the road or take the Metro subway system while Francis was in D.C.

The result? Lighter traffic and empty seats on Metro. In Washington, that counts for a miracle.

A threat in Philadelphia

Security at the Pennsylvania Convention Center shut down the exposition floor of the World Meeting Families due to a security threat.

Security officers passed out fliers to vendors about 5 p.m. Thursday -- an hour before vendors of rosaries, books, T-shirts and other things papal were to close for the evening -- and asked them to pack up and be out of the center by the morning.

"The Secret Service said they determined a threat and shut down the whole floor," a conference spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, told an RNS reporter at the site. "There are a bunch of people really upset about it. They were supposed to have all day to be in there, but they weren't even allowed to open this morning."

Robert Brock, who came from Houston to sell "Popeful" T-shirts, said his bottom line was affected by the change.

"They cut us off on the fourth day," he said. "A lot of people were waiting until the last day to buy their souvenirs."

The expo floor was scheduled to be open until 1 p.m. Friday.

Early Halloween

There are no words for the hilarious pope-ish pet pix rounded up from Instagram and on Twitter at #popedogs.

Given that the pontiff himself was photographed petting Bo and Sunny, the Obamas' Portuguese water dogs (who were wearing only fur for the occasion), we think Francis would be amused. When now-retired Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008, it was the pre-Twitter explosion era. And he's a cat person anyway.

Luther spinning in his grave?

martin luther

Martin Luther, founder of Germany's Protestant (Lutheran) Church, would not be among the ranks of Protestant pastors who like the pope. Religion News Service file photo.

Almost two-thirds of evangelical pastors view Pope Francis as a genuine Christian and “brother in Christ.”

Even so, a new survey from LifeWay Research finds that nearly 2 in 3 disagree with the pontiff on theology and only 3 in 10 said that the pontiff has improved their view of the Catholic Church. 

“Our sample itself -- Protestant pastors -- is named after the Protestant Reformation, so they are particularly interesting to survey,” Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, told Christianity Today. “And the survey says that this pope does, indeed, have a ‘Francis effect,’ even on a group of people named for protesting the very faith the pope leads.”

Recalling a list that dates back to Martin Luther, who kicked off the Reformation, Stetzer said, “Within a few centuries, the pope has gone from anti-Christ to ‘brother in Christ’ for a lot of Protestants.”

A mural for the masses ... 

David and Elizabeth Cratty, of Galesburg, Ill. are celebrating their wedding anniversary at the World Meeting of Families. Elizabeth Cratty said the couple stopped to contribute to painting the mural because "it is such an unexpected part of the event."

David and Elizabeth Cratty of Galesburg, Ill., are celebrating their wedding anniversary at the World Meeting of Families. Elizabeth Cratty said the couple stopped to contribute to painting the mural because "it is such an unexpected part of the event."

Those flocking to Philly to see the pope are leaving their mark on this city in more ways than one. Thousands of pope-watchers are picking up paintbrushes and adding color to a pontillistic mural depicting Catholic families that will become a permanent fixture of this city's vibrant public art scene.

Artists Cesar Viveros designed the mural, "The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century," a collaboration between The World Meeting of Families and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Viveros said he tried to create a mural that represented faith, humanity, and diversity. "When families come to the convention I want it to reflect themselves," he said. Photo by Anne Marie Hankins

Artists Cesar Viveros designed the mural, "The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century," a collaboration between The World Meeting of Families and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Viveros said he tried to create a mural that represented faith, humanity, and diversity. "When families come to the convention I want it to reflect themselves," he said. Photo by Anne Marie Hankins

 

'Proclaim liberty ... '

Pope Francis made great hay with a bas relief of Moses looking down over the Senate Chamber in his speech to the U.S. Congress. Perhaps he will make similar work of the Liberty Bell when he speaks from the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Saturday. The bell, which once rang from the tower of Independence Hall and now rests in a special visitors center close by, is inscribed with a verse from the Old Testament -- Leviticus 25:10: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The verse refers to a "jubilee," instructions to the Israelites to free slaves every 50 years. The inscription was chosen in 1751 by Isaac Norris, speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, probably to mark the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania founder William Penn's "Charter of Privileges," which granted religious liberties and self-government to the people of the colony. Today, another bell sits in the top of Independence Hall, the original Liberty Bell being famously cracked, and rings every hour. But it will be shut off this weekend so as not to interrupt Pope Francis and other dignitaries speaking below.

Modest wheels, major PR coup

Executives at Fiat Chrysler are in seventh heaven over the endless scenes of the pope scooting around in a black Fiat 500L sedan or cruising in a popemobile constructed of a modified Jeep Wrangler, according to The Wall Street Journal. The little sedan, looking like a mouse among elephantine SUVs in motorcades, is the kind of modest $20,000 ride that the luxury-eschewing pope prefers. He'll use similar cars in New York and Philadelphia, each bearing the license plate he uses in Rome: SCV1, short for Stato della Citta’ del Vaticano, for the Vatican City State.

Politicians inside, environmentalists outside

Climate-justice activists on the National Mall wave signs before Pope Francis' address to Congress on Sept. 24, 2015. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Climate-justice activists on the National Mall wave signs before Pope Francis' address to Congress on Sept. 24, 2015. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

As the sun rose over the U.S. Capitol, hundreds of climate-justice advocates gathered on the National Mall on Thursday (Sept. 24) ahead of Pope Francis’ address to Congress. They cheered and held green “Protect Our Common Home” signs as speakers grabbed onto the pope’s coattails to proclaim their concern about the environment and the effects of climate change. “Pope Francis has called religious leaders, political decision-makers and ordinary people to hear the cry of the poor, pay attention to the cry of the Earth and have the courage to make peace,” said Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. Joining her were leaders of secular environmental and scientific groups, including Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Anybody who doesn’t understand that climate change is one of the most profound moral issues we face hasn’t been paying any attention at all to what Pope Francis is saying,” said Meyer.

Atheists rap Congress for letting pope preach

Members of Congress from both parties may be welcoming Pope Francis to the Capitol on Thursday (Sept. 24), but the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Not so much. The Wisconsin-based advocacy group took out full-page ads in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today and The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Why is the pope preaching to Congress?” asks the ad in The Washington Post that includes quotes and the visage of President John F. Kennedy. The nation’s only Catholic president spoke of the importance of “absolute” church-state separation and said he believed in a country “where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope.” “Unfortunately, Congressional leaders John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, both Roman Catholics, appear not to share JFK’s vision of a secular America,” the ad reads.

A little papal cachet

In Philadelphia, it feels like everyone has turned out to welcome Pope Francis, who arrives in the city Saturday -- even the United States Postal Service. About a half-dozen USPS employees were on hand at the World Meeting of Families in the downtown convention center to hand-postmark collectible "Pope Francis Souvenir Cachets." Cachets are artwork on an envelope to commemorate a certain day or event, such as the current pope's first visit to the U.S. The cachets cost $10 each, and USPS retail manager Sharon Ross said about 2,000 were printed to mark the World Meeting of Families, meeting in Philadelphia for four days.

Sharon Ross, center, and other USPS employees at the World Meeting of Families

Sharon Ross, center, and other USPS employees at the World Meeting of Families. Photo by Kimberly Winston

Papal cachets

The USPS is offering "papal cachets." Photo by Kimberly Winston

 

Pope Francis backs Little Sisters in contraception mandate battle

The biggest news on this papal trip was expected to be the off-script events that happened under the radar.

Little Sisters of the Poor entering court house at 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for oral arguments. Photo courtesy of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Little Sisters of the Poor entering courthouse at 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for oral arguments. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty


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One of those took place early Wednesday evening when Francis went to visit a community of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the religious order that is involved in a contentious legal battle with the Obama administration over the order’s refusal to comply with an accommodation to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees. The order operates 30 homes for the aged and dying in the U.S., and the case may well end up at the Supreme Court. But whatever happens on the legal track, news of the visit to the community near Catholic University of America -- which took place after the canonization Mass for new St. Junipero Serra and was revealed at a briefing later that evening -- was important for the Catholic Church in the U.S.: One, it showed that the pope is behind the bishops in their battle with the Obama administration, support the pontiff had signaled in his talk at the White House earlier that day. And two, it demonstrated how the pope likes to address contentious topics in a low-key, behind-the-scenes way. That may not please everyone, but it's a pattern that is likely to repeat itself if, and likely when, Francis meets with clergy sex abuse victims. If it happens, perhaps during his stop in Philadelphia this weekend, the media will probably only find out about it after the fact.

Popefully yours ...  

A Houston businessman -- who is not a Catholic -- is responsible for a line of apparel featuring the logo "Popeful" with a cross in the letter "O." "This is a man who every day reminds us of what's important in life, even down to the power of a smile," said Robert Brock, the man behind the T-shirts. "I wanted to find a way to spread that message -- a message of hope, tolerance, humanity and optimism -- to anyone of any faith around the world, and also find a way to give back."

Popeful (PRNewsFoto/Popeful)

Popeful (PRNewsFoto/Popeful)

Brock promises that a "significant" portion of the proceeds will be given to Catholic nonprofits, including Catholic Charities USA, Cross Catholic Outreach and a Jesuit prep school in Houston with an outreach program to underprivileged students. The clothing will debut at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in advance of Pope Francis' arrival on Saturday.

Metro Center station sign in Washington, D.C. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Metro Center station sign in Washington, D.C. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks


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Subway blessing request

The Metro system in Washington, D.C., is so beleaguered that a D.C. man set up a Change.org petition seeking Pope Francis’ blessing for the system. “Our Metro system is having some troubles. All of DC would be grateful if you could find the time to bless it during your upcoming stay,” reads the letter posted on the petition that had more than 2,300 signatures by 10:15 a.m. Wednesday (Sept. 23). “Maybe a Papal Blessing is just what it needs.” Wrote petition creator Noah Rosenheck of Washington: “At this point I'm willing to try anything.” And while Francis is at it, a lot of other folks would like his blessing for their pet issues, too -- like the Philadelphia Eagles fans who want him to bless their quarterback's injured knee and pray for a Super Bowl win.

Holy See song

It's not a national anthem you hear very often from, say, the Olympic podium, but the Holy See -- one of the smallest countries in the world -- has one. And it is long, as evidenced by its playing on the White House lawn at the opening of Pope Francis' visit to Washington. The anthem was written in 1869 by Charles Gounod and is called "Inno e Marcia Pontificale," or "Pontifical Anthem."

In front of a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sister Monica sits in her home. She has spent her career ministering to transgendered people. Religion News Service photo by Philip Scott Andrews

In front of a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sister Monica sits in her home. She has spent her career ministering to transgendered people. Religion News Service photo by Philip Scott Andrews


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And like "The Star-Spangled Banner," it has lyrics: O Rome immortal of Martyrs and Saints, O immortal Rome, accept our praises: Glory in the heavens to God our Lord, And peace to men who love Christ! To You we come, Angelic Pastor, In You we see the gentle Redeemer, The Holy Heir of true and holy Faith; Comfort and refuge of those who believe and fight. Force and terror will not prevail, But Truth and Love will reign.

Out of the shadow

Sister Monica, a Catholic nun who has ministered to transgender people since 1999, is expected to be among the 15,000 White House guests gathered to welcome Pope Francis Wednesday (Sept. 23). “If I get close enough for him to hear me, I will say in Spanish, ‘I minister to God's transgender people. Please pray for us,’” she said. Sister Monica, who does not use her real name or identify her Catholic order, will be part of the delegation from PFLAG, or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. She keeps her identity hidden because she fears the church would punish her or her community if her work with transgender people became public.

Handshakes, no kissing

A flock of bishops and cardinals joined President Obama on the tarmac Tuesday to greet Pope Francis as he stepped off the flight from Cuba.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis (R) to the United States upon his arrival at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington on September 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Pope Francis to the United States upon his arrival at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington on Sept. 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque


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But no one kissed his ring. What's up with that? For centuries it was a sign of respect to kiss  the piscatory ring -- with its bas relief of the fisherman, the symbol of St. Peter, worn by his successors in the papacy.   It also was a big step up from the ninth-century edict that people greet the pope by kissing the instep of his foot.   Now, kissing the ring is optional. The custom began fading in the days of Pope Paul Vl, said church historian Matthew Bunson, editor of the Catholic Almanac.

Anti-pope or anti-Christ?

Pope Francis seems to have a pretty good handle on the intense opposition his reformist ways have generated in some quarters. That was evident in a lighthearted exchange he had with reporters on the papal flight to Washington on Tuesday, after they asked him about his critics:

"A cardinal friend of mine told me that a very concerned woman, very Catholic, went to him," Francis said, according to a transcript by Catholic News Agency. "A bit rigid, but Catholic. And she asked him if it was true that in the Bible, they spoke of an anti-Christ, and she explained it to him. And also in the Apocalypse, no? And, then, if it was true that an anti-pope, who is the anti-Christ, the anti-Pope. But why is she asking me this question, this cardinal asked me? 'Because I’m sure that Pope Francis is the anti-pope,' she said. And why does she ask this, why does she have this idea? 'It’s because he doesn’t wear red shoes.'"

Francis' predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, was famous for his attention to every detail of papal finery, down to the custom-made red leather shoes that he wore, and which occasioned much discussion. Francis, for the record, wears simple black leather shoes that he brought with him from Argentina. Information on what sort of shoes the anti-Christ wears was not immediately available.

What if we held a 'Paint Francis' class and nobody came?

ArtJamz Paint The Pope Class painting. Photo courtesy of ArtJamz

ArtJamz Paint The Pope Class painting. Photo courtesy of ArtJamz


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ArtJamz, a Washington, D.C., studio, is advertising a “Paint Pope Francis” class, to be held soon after the pontiff arrives in the city Tuesday (Sept. 22). For $40-$45, ArtJamz will supply an easel, canvas, smock, acrylics, collage material and artistic advice. Unfortunately, just a few hours before class was scheduled to begin, no one had signed up. Perhaps it was the alarming pope-focused traffic reports. “I think people are scared to come out this evening,” said Will Watson, the studio’s program director. Walk-ins are welcome, he added.

For an interfaith service she will help Pope Francis lead on Friday (Sept. 25) at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Dr. Gunisha Kaur has chosen to wear a traditional Punjab "salwar-kameez," a three-piece outfit with a long tunic top (kameez), traditional loose pants (salwar), and a head scarf (chunni).” Kaur is an anasthesiologist and human rights activist who will represent Sikh Americans. Photo courtesy of Gunisha Kaur

For an interfaith service she will help Pope Francis lead on Friday (Sept. 25) at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Dr. Gunisha Kaur has chosen to wear a traditional Punjabi "salwar-kameez," a three-piece outfit with a long tunic top (kameez), traditional loose pants (salwar) and a headscarf (chunni). Kaur is an anesthesiologist and human rights activist who will represent Sikh Americans. Photo courtesy of Gunisha Kaur


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Pope Francis is coming -- what to wear?

Dr. Gunisha Kaur, a Sikh human rights activist but also an anesthesiologist, spends most of her day in scrubs. On Friday (Sept. 25), when she takes her place as one of only a few people who will lead an interfaith service with Pope Francis at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan, Kaur needs a different outfit. She has known for some weeks about her role in the event, where she will deliver a Sikh prayer with her father, Satpal Singh. But "what do you wear to meet the pope?” she has been asking herself. She finally figured it out. “I decided to wear a traditional Punjabi salwar-kameez in deep blue,” Kaur said. “It is a three-piece outfit with a long tunic top (kameez), traditional loose pants (salwar) and a headscarf (chunni).”

Gunisha Kaur, Anesthesiologist, and Director of the Department of Anesthesiology's Global Health Initiative at Weill Cornell Medical College. Photo courtesy of Weill Cornell Medical College

Gunisha Kaur is an anesthesiologist and director of the department of anesthesiology's Global Health Initiative at Weill Cornell Medical College. Photo courtesy of Weill Cornell Medical College


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Kaur, who usually doesn’t cover her head in public, will wear the chunni throughout the interfaith service, as women do during Sikh services. “It is particularly important to me as I represent my Sikh faith,” she said.

Hunger focus before pope's arrival

Before he headed to Joint Base Andrews to welcome the pope, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl stopped by the National Press Club on Tuesday (Sept. 22) with seven other faith leaders to say they have pledged to end hunger by 2030. “The pope says to us every one of us has a responsibility for seeing that hunger in the world is something that we can easily and eventually eradicate,” said Wuerl, fresh from a summit the night before of about 100 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders. Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, put the pope’s arrival in the context of Yom Kippur, the sacred Jewish holiday that begins Tuesday night. “The cardinal is going to Andrews Air Force Base; I’m going home to prepare 16 people to be in synagogue by 6 p.m. tonight for a 25-hour fast," she said. “We will indeed atone for not making available to everyone the nourishment that our earth provides.”

Faith leaders speak about their pledge to end world hunger by 2030 at a news conference at the National Press Club on September 22, 2015. Left to right, Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Rev. Sharon Watkins, president, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, presiding bishop of the Eighth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; Commissioner David Jeffrey, national commander, Salvation Army; Anwar Khan, chief executive officer, Islamic Relief;Ruth Messinger, president, American Jewish World Service. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Faith leaders speak about their pledge to end world hunger by 2030 at a news conference at the National Press Club on September 22, 2015. Left to right, Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Rev. Sharon Watkins, president, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, presiding bishop of the Eighth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; Commissioner David Jeffrey, national commander, Salvation Army; Anwar Khan, chief executive officer, Islamic Relief;Ruth Messinger, president, American Jewish World Service. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

 

Another gay guest at White House party for Pope Francis

There's been much celebrating by some, and gnashing of teeth by others, over the presence of several LGBT Catholics and their allies among the 15,000 people expected on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday morning to officially welcome Pope Francis. Now add two more names to the list: Margie Winters and her wife, Andrea Vettori. Winters was fired from her job as a teacher at a Philadelphia Catholic school run by an order of nuns when some parents complained to the school and the archdiocese. The firing was strongly supported by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who will be hosting Francis for the final leg of his American tour, on Saturday and Sunday. Human Rights Watch, a leading LGBT advocacy group with ties to the Obama administration, said it had secured tickets for Winters and Vettori: "Obviously we won't be talking to the pope, but we will be in the vicinity," Winters told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "But symbolically, it's a great step forward." No surprise, not everyone agrees.

Paint-by-number pope

The World Meeting of Families, which kicks off Tuesday in Philadelphia, will open its four-day love-fest of all things Catholic with an attempt to capture a world record. Meeting organizers, who expect up to 17,000 attendees from 100 countries to fill Philadelphia's convention center, will invite all pilgrims to grab a brush and add some paint to a three-paneled mural depicting Pope Francis, a couple of doves and some very happy children and parents at prayer. The official record in the organizer's sights is the Guinness World Record for “Most Contributions to a Painting by Numbers.”

Flying high with Pope John Paul II

Robin Wright has a great piece in The New Yorker magazine about what it is like to travel as a papal correspondent. "As an agnostic, I often wondered whether the emotions unleashed in any Pope’s presence had an enduring impact, either on the lives of believers or on the state in which they lived," Wright writes. "Even so, I came to see the world in a different way, and developed respect for the papal flourish."

Hand-picked pilgrims

San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will travel with an entourage on Tuesday when he leaves Baghdad by the Bay for the nation's capital. The 59-year-old archbishop will bring about 200 parishioners, many of them from St. Peter's Catholic Church in San Francisco's Hispanic-heavy Mission District. They will attend the canonization Mass for Father Junipero Serra -- a Spaniard -- at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday. The pilgrims were hand-picked by the archdiocese and are supporters of the controversial archbishop, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, abortion and assisted suicide. He raised some hackles when he asked local Catholic high school teachers and staffers to sign a morality clause describing premarital sex and homosexuality as “gravely evil.” More than 100 prominent Bay Area Catholics then signed a petition asking for Cordileone's ouster and replacement. None of those signatories will accompany Cordileone to Washington. "I love his ideas, so I think he is great," Jesus Martinez, a parishioner at St. Peter's, told local news.

A papal visit prayer card for journalists

Computer-generated prayer card featuring the late Catholic journalist, Sister Mary Ann Walsh

Computer-generated prayer card featuring the late Catholic journalist, Sister Mary Ann Walsh

"I figured it's time for the patron saint of papal visits," Susan Gibbs, a longtime Catholic communications professional, wrote in an email with this icon she made. She's right -- 8,000 journalists are accredited for the U.S. stretch of Pope Francis' visit, which starts late Tuesday afternoon in Washington, D.C., and ends with a collective exhale from the press corps Sunday night. Yes, the pontiff was very kind to compliment our colleagues on the plane out to Cuba the other day, saying that being a reporter is a “very demanding job.” With all due respect, Your Holiness, you aren't making it any easier on us ... So we could use some help from on high, and no one better to intercede than Sister Mary Ann Walsh, who died earlier this year. Sister Mary Ann would have been kicking butt to get this three-city circus organized, and she wouldn't have put up with our whining for a second!

Slamming the pope

If you have sugar shock from fawning coverage of wildly popular Pope Francis, here's a squeeze of lemon for you, courtesy of Washington Post columnist George F. Will.

The coal-fired Castle Gate Power Plant sits idle and is no longer producing electricity outside Helper, Utah on August 3, 2015. Photo by George Frey courtesy of Reuters

The coal-fired Castle Gate Power Plant sits idle and is no longer producing electricity outside Helper, Utah on August 3, 2015. Photo by George Frey courtesy of Reuters


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"Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony," he writes, and that's just the start of Will's blast at Pope Francis' environmental and economic views. He goes on to call out the pope for "woolly sentiments," a penchant for "fact-free flamboyance" and for promoting a return to "medieval stasis." Will concludes that "Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation's premises." Guess Will won't be one of the 15,000 people expected to wave at the pope from the White House lawn Wednesday.

Skipping the pope

Despite a warm welcome from President Raul Castro, waving crowds on the motorcade route and a likely visit with Fidel, one person deeply tied to Che -- his daughter Aleida Guevera -- wants nothing to do with Francis. She told  AFP, "I won’t go to the Mass because it would be hypocritical of me. What will I do standing there for hours? No, no," she added, also saying, "My dad is there (Che Guevara’s grave is in Revolution Square, in Havana) because it is a symbol of this country."

Here he comes!

Well, here he comes, with a stop in Cuba first. Perhaps noting the extreme popularity of the annual NORAD Christmas Eve "Santa tracker," the Vatican instituted a "Pope Tracker" on Saturday (Sept. 19) so folks could watch his progress from Rome to Havana. Unknown: Will FlightRadar also show his journey Tuesday to Washington? Also unknown: What's in that bulging black briefcase he toted up the stairs?

A crowded South Lawn

President Obama and Pope Francis will be joined by close to 15,000 people on the South Lawn for the arrival ceremony on Wednesday (Sept. 23), White House officials told journalists in a Thursday conference call.

Pope Francis meets President Obama at the Vatican. White House photo courtesy Pete Souza.

Pope Francis meets President Obama at the Vatican. White House photo courtesy of Pete Souza


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Included in the crowds will be invited leaders from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other faiths, said Melissa Rogers, head of the faith-based office. “The people who are not Catholic are expressing as great enthusiasm for being here as well,” Rogers said. The very Catholic Vice President Joe Biden will be all over the visit -- at the canonization Mass for Junipero Serra, the pope’s address to Congress and the farewell ceremony when Francis leaves Philadelphia on Sunday (Sept. 27) for Rome, said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser.

His own Phillies rookie card

He may be a soccer fan but it’s official: Pope Francis now has a 2015 rookie baseball card. The Phillies Pope Francis Rookie Card lists the pontiff’s basic info: birthdate, birthplace, education. His position?: 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church How do you get one? You had to be at the Phillies-Nationals baseball game on Wednesday (Sept. 16).

The only papal prediction you really need: the weather

There's tons of blather about what Pope Francis will say or do on his first U.S. trip, and those who know best tell the truth when they shrug and say they're not sure.

But we can start to tell you what may be the most important forecast if you are in one of the three cities he will visit (Washington, New York or Philadelphia): whether or not you will need to bring an umbrella, or a parasol.

From the folks at weather.com, here are some initial predictions -- but remember, it's the weather, the only thing more unpredictable than the pontiff. For now, things don't look too bad:

Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 22: The pope arrives about 4 p.m. and travels to the Vatican Embassy after a welcoming ceremony. Might be the dodgiest day of the trip, but then again not much going on outside, unless you want to stand outside the Massachusetts Avenue embassy hoping for a papal appearance:

tuesdaydc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23: Morning welcome at the White House, parade along the Ellipse and National Mall, then the big outdoor Mass in the late afternoon. Should be OK:

wednesdaydc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24: Address to Congress in the morning, then a greeting to huge crowds expected on the Mall off the west portico of the Capitol. On to Catholic Charities and lunch with the needy, then flies in the late afternoon to New York for evening prayers at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Pretty nice day:

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New York, Friday, Sept. 25: Francis will speak at the United Nations, preside at an interfaith service at Ground Zero and visit a Catholic school in Harlem -- but the main weather-sensitive event this day will be his open-air motorcade through Central Park, scheduled to start at 5 p.m. before he celebrates Mass in Madison Square Garden. Outlook: Enjoy!

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Philadelphia, Saturday, Sept. 26: The final two days in Philly will have the largest outdoor events, starting with a 4:45 p.m. rally in front of Independence Mall and then a 7:30 p.m. visit to the Festival of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Outlook: Looking pretty good so far.

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Philadelphia, Sunday, Sept. 27: Francis will be meeting with bishops in the morning and visiting a prison, but the grand finale of the trip is the outdoor Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It is set to start at 4 p.m. and may draw upward of 1 million. That would be a lot of umbrellas, but doesn't look like you'll need them:

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So that's how it stand for now, but conditions are subject to change.

As Francis likes to say: "God always forgives; men sometimes forgive; but nature never forgives.”

Brush up your Spanish

Pope Francis will deliver all but four of his 18 addresses in Spanish during his first trip to the United States, according to the New York Post.

The 78-year-old Argentine has been practicing his English but is not fluent enough to use it for his entire visit, Vatican officials said.

The pope will address the U.S. Congress in English and is expected to make his remarks at a White House welcoming ceremony in English as well. But the United Nations should have some translators on hand -- the pontiff will make that historic address in Spanish.

Put a cartoon pope in your phone

A North Carolina social media company is so jazzed for Pope Francis' visit that it has created an app full of little cartoon popes doing all sorts of American things -- visiting the Statue of Liberty, flashing the peace sign, eating a Philly cheesesteak.

Swyft Media's "Popemoji" free app features 52 stickers and 14 GIFs -- short animated movies on a loop -- that can be sent on a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Skype. Il Papa is pictured washing feet, cuddling babies, riding in the popemobile and giving the thumbs-up while saying "cool" in a word bubble.

The app was commissioned by Aleteia, a global Catholic network, in advance of the pontiff's visit.

Swyft Media

Swyft Media

'Queen' and Pope

You don't have to be Catholic to entertain the faithful. Aretha Franklin, aka Queen of Soul who brought her gospel-infused style from singing at her pastor-daddy's Baptist church, joins the all-star list of folks booked to entertain Pope Francis at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia.

The event, sponsored by the World Meeting of Families, will also feature (so far): Colombian pop star Juanes, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the rock band The Fray, Catholic comedian Jim Gaffigan, Catholic singer-songwriter Matt Maher and pop/R&B singing group Sister Sledge. 

Mark Wahlberg, who credits a parish priest for prompting him to a life of daily prayer, will host.

Color him Francis

Enthusiasts caught up in the current adult coloring craze can get their Catholic on with several coloring books and pages targeted to the upcoming papal visit to the U.S.

Google "pope visit coloring" and a whole heavenly host of black-line images pops up of the current pontiff and even a predecessor or two. Downloadable images include Pope Francis at prayer, the pope waving goodbye from the Vatican balcony and his papal crest.

For the truly devoted, there is  "The Holy See Pope Francis Coloring & Activity Book," a 2014 project that received a stamp of approval from the Vatican for its St. Louis publisher. Sharpen your white crayons for all those vestments!

Pope coloring book

Pope coloring book

Cashing in on Francis

The popemobile spins through Central Park and for the papal visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia have fallen prey to scalpers who scooped up a chunk of the free-but-scarce tickets made available to the public for several events.

One seller -- James Fortner of Glassboro, N.J. -- told the Wilmington, Del., News-Journal he worked for this.

"I figured if I'm sitting here, hitting refresh a thousand times, I might as well get paid for it," said Fortner, who was selling tickets to various papal events on Craigslist for $100. "As far as I can see, it's the American way."

But is it the way of Pope Francis? Doubtful.

Colbert's Catholic Night

The new host of CBS' "Late Show" is getting lots of attention for his first few shows, especially for the Catholic faith he wears on his sleeve -- as shown in interviews he has given, and in a moving sit-down he had Thursday (Sept. 10) with Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke about the recent death of his son and his own faith.

Now, National Catholic Reporter notes Colbert is planning an all-Catholic lineup for Sept. 24, when Francis arrives for a 36-hour stop in New York City.

Colbert will feature Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, a champion of immigrants and of the pope's encyclical on the environment; journalist/activist Maria Shriver; comedian Jim Gaffigan; and author -- and out-and-proud gay Catholic -- Andrew Sullivan. The Miami Herald said the archbishop is "working on his jokes." The rest of them are probably set.

Modern M*A*S*H

Pope Francis waves from the pope-mobile during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter's Square on Tuesday (March 19) at the Vatican. World leaders flew in for Pope Francis' inauguration Mass in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday where Latin America's first pontiff will receive the formal symbols of papal power. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis waves from the popemobile during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.  RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Pope Francis likens the Catholic Church to a "field hospital after battle." Now, a historic Washington hospital is taking his name for its emergency room.

Providence Hospital, originally chartered by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861, will rename its emergency department the Pope Francis Emergency Care Center. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, will bless the newly named center on Friday, Sept. 18 -- four days before the pontiff's first U.S. visit.

'There is no Shepherd One! Stop using that phrase!'

When the U.S. media call the papal plane "Shepherd One," it really fries veteran Vatican-watcher John Allen.

Allen, covering the papal trip for Crux, Boston Globe's Catholic site, says we evidently like how it echoes the power and shimmer of glamour of the U.S. president's ride -- Air Force One.

But the airliner that brings Pope Francis to America next week will be an ordinary Alitalia jet (the pope owns no plane) pulled out of routine service for a day, says Allen. It will have no fancy desks or electronics or meeting suites -- just a VIP (as in Very Important Pontiff) in the front row of business class.

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