By: Stan Silverman, Leadership Catalyst, Tier 1 Group

September 28, 2015 8:30 am EDT
Pope FrancisENLARGE
Pope Francis greets enthusiastic Philadelphia crowds Photo: Fran Fielding

What a weekend! The Pope captured the hearts of all. His warmth, compassion, humanity and humility, as well as the words and thoughts he shared, many times off script and extemporaneously, touched everyone, from his personal encounters with all whom he met, and at all of the events at which he spoke.

As the Pope was driven along the parkway in his specially designed Jeep Wrangler popemobile prior to mass on Sunday, watching parents hand their small children to the members of the Pope’s security detail, who in turn presented these children to the Pope so he could kiss and bless them, was a sight to behold. I know most individuals of all faiths were moved and felt spiritual watching all these incredible sights.

The Parkway was the perfect venue, even with the very long wait times on Sunday to clear security. Many more checkpoints were needed, as well as additional jumbotrons outside the Francis Festival Grounds, so those who could not enter the Festival Grounds could watch the mass. This was predictable – more checkpoints should have been provided. I feel sorry for the many thousands who had traveled long distances and were not able to enter the Grounds. Had the original estimates of attendance been reached, the screening issue would have been much worse. Predictably, SEPTA outbound train service was overwhelmed Saturday night and after the mass Sunday afternoon. With patience, everyone eventually made it home.

Many local residents reported the pleasure of walking and biking through Center City early Saturday and Sunday mornings without the presence of vehicular traffic. People who normally would go about their business without acknowledging others around them took the time to engage in conversation about the transformation of city life, albeit for a short two days. People were helpful and friendly to each other – a pleasant change from a normal day, when most pass others on the street engrossed in their own thoughts.

Chris Jefferson, a good friend, sent me an email, in which she wrote, “I never saw the Pope, but I walked nearly 12 miles today, running into old friends and neighbors and meeting visitors from all over the world. I watched strangers buy coffee and food for working National Guard troops and police officers. Everyone really was smiling all day. It was Philadelphia at its best.” It certainly was.

Regardless of all of the complaints about disruption to city life and second-guessing of logistical plans, street and road closings by me and others, this was a great weekend for the faithful and for all citizens of Philadelphia and the region. When planning and implementing an event of this magnitude, not everything will be perfect, and memories of those aspects of the plan that could have perhaps been more effective will fade into the past.

In my previous articles about the Pope’s visit, I was critical of the lack of transparency as to the reasons why so many streets and roads were being closed. There should have been more disclosure on why other alternatives were not chosen that would have caused less disruption to city life, including the unintended adverse consequences to local restaurants and businesses. Had this been more effectively done, I believe people would have been more accepting of the disruption to the city.

Within the past few weeks, the launch of the PR campaign “I’ll be there” certainly helped with attendance. Saturday’s events involving the pope certainly helped increase the attendance of Sunday’s mass. Those who chose not to attend missed a wonderful weekend. What will be remembered is how the pope touched all of our lives during his visit, and how city life for a short period of time was transformed into something special.

My congratulations to Mayor Michael Nutter, his team, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the World Meeting of Families. Let’s thank the police, Secret Service, other security personnel, all the workers who set up the Parkway venue, the volunteers and all the attendees, who made this an extraordinary and forever memorable event.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s). Core Compass’s Terms Of Use applies.

About the author

Stan Silverman is a speaker, writer and advisor who focuses on helping businesses and organizations cultivate leadership cultures. He currently is a Leadership Catalyst for Tier 1 Group, a firm of strategists and advisors for preeminent growth. Stan is also Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Drexel University, a lead director on the board of Drummond Scientific and and serves on the board of Ben Franklin Technology Partners. He is the former president and CEO of PQ Corporation. Stan can be reached by email or at his website:

Philadelphiapapal visitPope Francis
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