Guys: I can barely bring myself to write about it; the whole thing was a miserable rollercoaster ride.
We were thrilled to learn Pope Francis would be visiting Philly, and, more than that, would be celebrating a public mass. Then we learned that the public transportation near us would be shut down, so we agonized over whether or not to make the trip. Then it was announced only a month before that it would be a ticketed event. Well, not totally ticketed: no ticket necessary if you don't mind 1/2 mile back being your closest possible option. Then, 6 days before the mass my parish called and said they had tickets for me. I cried.
Since we were taking Baby Leopard along with us, we decided to aim for early, but not too early (so that we didn't have to keep the kid from running away for hours and hours. We drove into West Philly, parked our car, and walked 3 miles, arriving in the security line around 1 pm, three hours before the 4 pm mass. We proceeded to wait in the security line for more than 4 hours. When we made it in, we were one of the last people to receive communion, and the mass was over within the next ten minutes or so.
Evidently the security lines on the north side of the parkway (to which very little of the city's public transportation took people) were about 15 minutes long.
We were deeply disappointed, in addition to being totally exhausted.
There were 14 metal detectors at the only south entrance to the parkway, which served thousands and thousands of visitors (there were thousands behind us, who never made it in). In addition to going through a metal detector, you had to turn on all your electronics and show them to the agents. You also had to get rid of all apples and oranges (we mistakenly ate all of our pears, since we were told fruit was prohibited).
Francisco is firmly against the police state and he's right: this is insane. Someone could easily have set off a bomb amidst the thousands packed into a security line if they wanted to make a point. People who want to set off bombs find ways and places to do it. I'm just not sure why we think that the TSA are able to keep us safe (all the proof is against that one--it's primarily security theater that makes us feel safe), and I'm not sure why we let them keep us away from the Pope. Just imagine if there had been this security regime during Jesus' public ministry.