PHILADELPHIA – Organizers faced an outcry this week over a ticket plan keeping most of Pope Francis' audience at his two biggest Philadelphia events several blocks away. A map added to some confusion over the size of the ticketholder-only zone.
Here are answers to some key questions:
DO I NEED TICKETS TO ATTEND THE POPE'S PUBLIC EVENTS IN PHILADLEPHIA?
It depends on the event. The pope is holding three major public events in the city: a Sept. 26 speech on immigration and religious freedom in front of Independence Hall, an appearance at the closing festival of the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 26 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and a celebration of Mass on Sept. 27 on the same boulevard.
DO I NEED TICKETS FOR THE INDEPENDENCE HALL SPEECH?
On Sept. 8, 10,000 tickets will be made available on a website, on a first-come, first-served basis, to the general public; details have not yet been announced.
Thousands of other tickets are being given out to parishes with large immigrant communities in an effort to assure a diverse audience.
DO I NEED TICKETS FOR THE TWO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PARKWAY APPEARANCES?
No, if you don't mind standing at least 2.5 blocks, or a quarter-mile, away.
Francis' appearance at the closing festival of the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 26 is expected to draw 750,000 or more people, his celebration of Mass on Sept. 27 up to 1.5 million.
If you want to stand in the 2.5 blocks closest to the stage on Sept. 26 or the altar on Sept. 27, you will need a ticket.
WHO GETS TICKETS FOR THE TWO BIG EVENTS?
Tickets are being distributed primarily to parishioners in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, plus surrounding dioceses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The thousands of people attending the World Meeting of Families, the triennial Catholic conference attracting Francis to Philadelphia, are automatically receiving passes. Passes also are being given to event sponsors and members of other faith communities and church social service programs.
There are also 10,000 tickets for each day that will be made available to the general public. They will be distributed Sept. 9 through a website on a first-come, first-served basis; details have not yet been announced.
Papal visit planners decided to make that last batch available after a backlash over the announcement this week that several blocks up front had been set aside for ticketholders and that tickets were largely reserved for parishioners in the city and four surrounding counties.
IF I DON'T HAVE A TICKET, WILL THERE STILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE THE POPE?
Yes. Organizers also announced that Francis will parade along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before the Sept. 26 and 27 events, giving many an opportunity to see him up close. They said the parade the first day would likely be longer than the one before the Mass.
Papal events will also be broadcast on 40 huge screens throughout the city for crowds to watch all his appearances during his two-day visit to Philadelphia, including those that are not public.