The Pope Comes to Philadelphia

In his first-ever visit to the United States, Pope Francis will travel to Philadelphia to attend the World Meeting of Families. The event – which occurs every three years – will take place in the United States for the very first time. City officials expect up to 2 million people to visit Philadelphia for the Pope’s public appearance on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in effect doubling the city’s population for the weekend.

Boosters were expected to raise as much as $45 million for the Pope’s visit. This large sum will cover the expansive operational costs, including security and the management of 10,000 volunteers that will be working around the clock to ensure a smoothly run three day tour.

The World Meeting of Families – while sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family – depends on private contributions and in-kind gifts in order to fund the events. Many of the details concerning the funders for the Pope’s visit will not likely emerge until after the World Meeting of Family’s next tax filing. The organization is registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia – who heads the nonprofit – is under investigation by Italian authorities for embezzlement. The case involves Paglia’s tenure in Italy and, according to the World Meeting of Families, is in no way connected to the organization or the planning for the Philadelphia event. 

Government resources and personnel will also play a big part, as the Secret Service and other federal agencies have contributed significantly to the security planning process and will staff the implementation of the security plan, The extent of the primary security perimeter could stretch from the Schuylkill to the Delaware rivers, and from South Street all the way to Girard Avenue. Officials have indicated that a fence will be constructed that completely surrounds City Hall. Analysts believe this is because the influx of people will begin shutting down parts of the city as early as Friday evening.

Despite the logistical head aches and non-stop, city-wide organizing, the visit is expected to provide quite the financial boon for Philadelphia, with a projected $418 million impact spread across the city’s service, hotel, retail, and transportation industries.

Nonprofits and foundations are also leveraging Pope Francis’ visit to improve their fundraising.

The Pope – a veritable media sensation – has helped raise the profile of a number of area charities tackling basic needs issues and other worthy causes. The executive of HOME – an anti-homelessness organization – announced a $1.5 million fundraising campaign in June in conjunction with Francis’ visit. Also known as the Francis Fund, the campaign has contributed $700,000 to more than 40 human services organizations serving Philadelphia and Camden.

The actual extent of the philanthropic and financial impact of the visit will not emerge until months from now, but if the number of passionate faithful inspired by Pope Francis’ message traveling for the event are accurate, there will be a massive pool of generous donors ready to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

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