Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia this weekend. Vast areas of Center City already are on lockdown. Schools and colleges will be closed for the papal visit. Given the givens, this is the closest I will get to the People’s Pope.
It’s maddening that Philly can find money to host large events, e.g., World Meeting of Families and the 2016 Democratic National Convention, or make a down payment on the school to prison pipeline. But there’s no money to fund programs that will lift its citizens out of persistent poverty.
Sure, visitors will love Center City, which sparkles day and night. Fact is, Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the nation. According to the 2013 Census Bureau American Community Survey, the city’s poverty rate is 26.5 percent; over 400,000 of the city’s 1,560,000 residents are living in poverty. More than 190,000 live in deep poverty, meaning their incomes are less than half the federal poverty level.
As of this writing, the city still hasn’t signed a contract with the World Meeting of Families. It’s safe to assume that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for the Pope in Philly. Meanwhile, many public schools are without nurses, librarians, guidance counselors, substitute teachers or arts education.
I grew up in the Baptist church but right now, I’m unchurched. That said, I pray that city leaders heed the Papal Mass and “rescue the poor, the weak, and the abandoned from their distress and provide with generosity for their needs.”