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28 Sep

Pope Francis’ historic visit to Philadelphia is over. As I watched the Papal Mass on TV, I was struck by Archbishop Chaput’s call:

This is a city that would change its name to Francisville today.

Philly already has a Francisville.

Francisville Sign

The historically black neighborhood is located a short walk from the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul. On my way to the Festival of Families, I walked through Francisville. If the People’s Pope had visited his namesake, he would have seen how gentrification is unfolding in Philadelphia. Long-time black and Latino residents are being displaced.

As expected in the fourth most segregated city in the country, those moving in don’t look like those being pushed out.

4th Most Segregated City

In his homily at the private mass, the Holy Father asked:

What about you? What are you going to do?

That is indeed the question. What are city leaders going to do about the displacement of longtime residents by new residents who may not stick around when their ten-year tax abatement expires? By the way, the tax abatement only applies to new construction. So there’s a perverse incentive to demolish historic and cultural resources, including churches, murals and burial grounds.


Now that Pope Francis has left town, Mayor Michael Nutter should check himself. Rather than bask in the afterglow, he should do an after action report and explain why Philadelphia was transformed into a police state.

Security Sign v2

Days before Pope Francis even set foot in Philadelphia, the city was on lock down. City Hall, schools, libraries, courts, banks, stores, roads and bridges, train stations and Greyhound were closed.

Pope in Philly - Collage

Nutter talked a good game about showcasing the city while the world was watching. What the world saw was a ghost town patrolled by Philly police, the National Guard and other security forces. Rem Rieder of USA TODAY wrote:

It was still dark, of course, and it had the look of a war zone. There were barricades everywhere. There were security checkpoints. There were fences making some streets completely inaccessible. And everywhere there were police, and TSA agents, and all other flavors of law enforcement personnel.

Heckuva job, Mayor Nutter.