So as my regular readers know, my family and I drove down to Philadelphia on Monday, the 21st of September to attend the triannual event of the World Meeting of Families Congress held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The congress was followed by a Papal visit to Philly on the 26th & 27th.
As usual, for the drive down I prepared a sheet to help the kids know where we were and how much longer it would be. Because of a detour into Ithaca to eat lunch at the Moosewood restaurant on the way down, the mid point was where hwy 281 crossed the I81. On the way back the midpoint was Syracuse since we didn't do that detour. V-8 was the one filling in this form and she didn't fill in much of it as she got distracted by her iPad.
This next picture is of the opening ceremony on Tuesday afternoon. There were a lot of people present, but there were still a lot more that were still arriving that day.
We traveled with another family who also has three kids, so here are all six kids lined up with the plastic transparent back packs we all received with our registration.
The convention center was enormous and in the D-E exhibit hall we were set up for the key note speeches. They had groups of seats with 12 seats per row and 13 rows. So each section had 156 sections and there were approximately eight sections width ways and about ten sections depth ways which gave enough seating for about 12,500 people. Facing forward you could see the main stage with a very wide banner that included integrated jumbotron screens that were used during some of the keynote presentations.
This is looking backwards from where we were seated, sorry for the bluriness, my mobile phone camera can only do so much.
And here is looking to our left. Behind the closest pillar on the right side you can just barely see a red-seated bandstand. This is where the choir sat whenever a mass was held in this room.
During the keynote and breakout sessions for the adults, the kids got to go to a Youth Congress. They had lots of fun doing this while we got some kid free time to take in the sessions that happened throughout the three days of the conference.
Friday at 13h15 was the end of it so Friday afternoon we got to do a short visit into Philadelphia where, among other things, we got to see the Liberty Bell.
On Saturday, the 27th, it was the Festival of the Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. As attendees of the congress, we received tickets to attend the event in the 'ticketed area' which was still rather enormous. On this day we managed to get fairly close even though we didn't queue up early in the day. Here you can see G-bot up in the tree to see if he can see better.
Here you can see how close we are - there is one jumbotron screen halfway between us and the stage and right up front is an enormous stack of water that volunteers were handing out for free.
Later at night you could see the light show while on the jumbotron screen you could see close ups of what was on stage.
On Sunday it was the Papal Mass and we left our apartment (one we rented via AirBNB near the 69th street station) at 8AM. It is good that we did this as our queue to get past security was only about 80 or 100 minutes. The other family we traveled with left their place at around 11AM and they took four hours before they passed security. We managed to finagle a spot by doing an interview with Radio Canada (the french CBC) who had picked out a spot to put their camera. They were leaving just after the noon live broadcast and we would take the place where they had their camera. Here is a picture looking backwards from that spot.
And here is a picture looking forwards. We are further back than we were the previous day, but we can see the sanctuary in the distance with the cross dead center. There is also a jumbotron on the left that allowed us to see the close-up of the mass.
At around 13h30 some organizers decided it would be appropriate to erect a tent above the VIPs who had seats to sit on right at the very front. A lot of us in our area grumbled as it blocked the view.
About an hour later they took the tent down but left the frame of the tent up. That was fine with us as now we could see again. At about 15h15 the Papal Procession began with the Pope-Mobile travelling at a slow pace south-east on the BF Parkway, going around City Hall, and then back north-west on the BF Parkway until it reached the sanctuary part (the stage). As the Pope passed back towards us again not too far from the front, G-bot put C-ling on his shoulders to film the passing. If you can't see them in this photo:
Maybe you can seem them in this one, and if you can't see them in this one,
You should see the girl with the pink shirt and white shorts standing on the arms of the boy in the black shirt.
It wasn't clear to me how they would manage to do communion with as many as a million people attending this service, but when it came time, during the mass, there was a parade of these yellow and white umbrellas carried by volunteers who escorted priests who together walked down the left and right sides of the parkway. Their procession continued after pair after pair made their way to the ends of the parkway. This to me was the most magical part, to see them moving together as they did.
At the end of the mass, Archibishop Chaput of Philadelphia made some closing remarks to end the WMOF and Papal Visit and then Archbishop Paglia, the President of the Holy See's Pontifical Council for the Family, announced the location of the next WMOF, which will take place in Dublin, Ireland, in 2018. Conveniently, from where we were sitting, we saw this:
For how much we enjoyed and got out of the congress, my wife and I are seriously considering attending the next one in Dublin.