Getting off the plane on Sunday afternoon at Philadelphia International Airport, the jetway looked the same as 10,000 other long, grey, carpeted airport terminal entries.
That was where the similarities ended, for this is a city ready to welcome first 17,000-plus pilgrims, then the Holy Father himself and — perhaps — more than a million Catholics.
Colorful banners large and small greet visitors to the city and to the World Meeting of Families, and the smiling face of Pope Francis graces many. Papal quotes, welcome messages and #WMF2015 logos are everywhere from the airport to the city streets to our hotel.
In the windows of shops are not just luggage tags and water bottles but every papal souvenir you can imagine — and some you can’t: T-shirts, onesies for babies, coffee mugs, posters and, of course, the famous Pope Francis bobbleheads are on display.
Yesterday, OSV publisher Greg Erlandson and I walked a mile or so from the OSV Team hotel to the Convention Center where the Congress is being held. In the atrium is a beautiful reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pietà, which will be blessed after Monday’s opening ceremonies.
Long lines already stretched from the registration tables, as attendees picked up their information packets. Catholic organizations and companies, including Our Sunday Visitor, were arriving to set up displays in the marketplace. Volunteers in can’t-miss-them orange T-shirts were ready to help a person (or two) trying to find the media center. Everywhere, a colorful and cacophonous crowd of Catholics — families large and small, nuns, priests and more — were preparing for a momentous, busy and spiritual week ahead.
The wait is over. The World Meeting of Families begins today with opening ceremonies, Mass, the opening of the marketplace, keynote speeches, breakout sessions and more. Everyone is looking ahead to next weekend’s papal visit and following the news from Cuba and his journey to the United States.
Here in Philadelphia, for the next six days, we’ll be celebrating the theme of #WMF2015, showing the world that “love is our mission, and the family is fully alive.”
Visit the official World Meeting of Families website at www.worldmeeting2015.com
And bookmark www.osv.com/papalvisit for updates from OSV Newsweekly.
Cathy Dee is OSV’s social media editor.