The Pope Hangover in Philly
On a local Philly forum I follow there had been a lot of anxiety of Philly in turmoil over a once in a generation happening centered around the local Archdiocese and it World Family Conference – selling the definition of marriage and staking out moral authority over it in the hopes of charging eternal royalties, added to the company coffers, not unlike the Disney people forever repackaging Mickey Mouse as something completely new and unique to each new generation etc.
The anxiety in many was that for all practical purposes, this private religious group, the Roman Catholics, had declared temporary eminent domain of a large portion of downtown Philadelphia for the purpose of a street fair and or religious ritual. The Franklin Parkway is the one beautiful planned section of downtown leading from the Second Empire city hall, larger than the U.S. Capitol building btw, cut on a diagonal to the northwest to any old plateau that once served as the city’s main reservoir and now has the ornate Greek style art museum built on top of that old hill. The hill of course is the reason for dozens of steps in front and immortalized in cinema by the movie Rocky.
The archdiocese no doubt wanted the Parkway with its many museums and classical style public buildings along its classical ala Paris style dimensions of a grand boulevard to tart up the centuries old rituals that fit in with the modern Vatican marketing program to present a pope in the rockstar, large ground, grand doobie concert settings for the marketing and sale of the product.
The locals with their houses and condos were trapped in a no drive zone that the invading archbishop from Denver had staked out to tart up his reputation and eternal campaign for the red hat.
Daily bulletins from the local authorities with varying levels of local, state and federal levels of authority made it very confusing how one would or could function in the middle of a commandeered concert site/zone.
I have seen literally dozens of the latest maps in recent weeks showing the latest no man’s land without a pass land surrounding these people’s homes and private live – “Private lives matter”. That and the threat of having your automobile temporarily confiscated and towed if parked in the wrong zone. That and a fee for a retrieval of your car from some improvised car impound lot anywhere in the city on the docks being shipped to Saudi Arabia care of the local mob.
Many simply wanted to escape if they could and go out of the city to avoid the tourist mess with the Pope Show. That with a secondary thought that your home might be robbed in your absence, that in an area protecting the Pope Show and not anybody’s local property per say.
One comment on the disaster of the mismanaged twisted mess of the local South-East Pennsylvania Transportation Authority S.E.P.T.A. during the Pope’s visit to the city.
According to my Septa conductor friend, he says the whole pope weekend was horrible.
To quote him: "tons of lack-of-communication, foul-ups, and bitching over who had to do what jobs... a real nuthouse of dumb Septa officials!"
And there was the question of who was going to pay for all the extra security associated with a public event with an international head of state present. New York and Washington are used to these big state events with the Federal Government in DC and the United Nations in New York. Philly is just in so many ways since the opening of the Erie Canal – an east coast city with no discernible mission statement or purpose.
For many months of negotiations with the city, the corporation responsible for the World Family conference and its bills, the figure was something like 45 million dollars. Reading the forum over time, this figure kept floating in the air as the event approached. One interesting thing was that the World Family conference had a grace period of six months following the event to reimburse the city for expenses of their temporary occupation of downtown Philly.
The final figure the RCs jewed the city down to was $12 million dollars now that it had become an international and partially state event and the state and federal government, via the FBI and Secret Service was picking up a hefty piece of the real costs of having Pope Francis give his marketing performance on the Parkway.
Nothing in the forum if the AD was going to reimburse the state of Pennsylvania or the Feds. I somehow doubt it. And since this private tax free religion club has no fiscal accountability I can only guess where the rest of the 45 million after the 12 million deduction for expense went, as it was supposedly already pledged by private and corporate donations to the event. (Let’s close another local parish says the out of town Archbishop from Denver via one of his infamous “blue ribbon commissions” handling this or that real estate detail in the AD’s portfolio.)
Because of all the shutting down of this public service train lines, bus lines, bridge access for security reasons etc. is why the final crowd of the Pope’s public mass was closer to half a million to six hundred thousand instead of the original estimated one million crowd.
Of course, it was the post 911 security blanket as to why Francis did not shine like a saint like John Paul II and his past performance in Philly. It was not that religion in this Millennial driven tech world is hard pressed to compete in the entertainment and spirituality market with the young and not so gullible.
All this haggling over money for a Pope Show goes back to 1979 when the
A-merican mayor Frank Rizzo, the former racist police overseer chief, who built
a public platform over the Logan Circle Fountain on the Parkway at city expense
for JPII’s mass, and was challenged in the courts for doing so – separation of
church and state and all that – and eventually the Archdiocese was forced to reimburse
the city something like $300,000 for wood and labor.
The price of extra security from the city, state and Feds for that 1979 SuperStar event never got addressed etc.