- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2015


The security blanket coming together for the pope’s visit will likely be tighter than your tyke’s grasp on her blankie.

This is a serious affair for Pope Francis (“The People’s Pope”), and his tendency to mingle and bless the masses means our law enforcers in three major U.S. cities will have to accommodate him and his entourage and, somehow, corral the rest of us.

We’ve been told to mind our P’s and Q’s while Francis is here — no fist bumps or handshakes, please and thank you — and to wear our patience on our sleeves, because it’s anticipated there will be massive vehicular tie-ups and foot traffic from Tuesday, when he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, until he departs Philadelphia for Rome on Sunday.

So before the transportation nightmares begin, let’s have some fun in honor of Francis‘ infectious grin.

Francis was born under the astrological sign of Sagittarius, the archer. An article on Astrology.com says Sagittarians “are keenly interested in philosophy and religion” and like to look at the “big picture most of the time.” Astroslye.com says that for fun-loving archers on Wednesday the 23rd, “the Sun joins Mercury in Libra,” ramping up the social butterfly vibes. Hmm. That’s the day the pope rolls out to the masses in the Popemobile.

His Holiness ain’t called “The People’s Pope” for nothin’. He has embraced and blessed a man covered in tumors and washed the feet of a Muslim woman.

Francis knows affairs of the heart, having fallen in love with a girl back in his Argentine home town at age 12. Young Francis reportedly told the girl, “If I don’t marry you, I’m going to be a priest.”

List25.com also reports: “The Pontiff was given a Harley-Davidson motorcycle after he gave blessings to hundreds of Harley owners and their rides in St. Peter’s Square. He sold the bike at an auction that benefited the homeless.” Imagine. A pope on a Harley. Ha!

Another from List25: A basketball player in his youth, Francis was honored by the NBA’s Boston Celtics with his own jersey, emblazoned with “The Pope,” and the No. 1 under the emblematic three-leaf clover.

Back to the rest of us. Pope Francis has yet to arrive in Washington, and prayers already have been sent up: Please, Lord, don’t let D.C. Metrorail act like the devil and D.C. metermaids get ticket happy.

There is no pope-ometer to gauge human behavior. Indeed, it’s easy to predict reaction to a Donald Trumpism than what’s coming down the pike while the pontiff spends a week in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

It’s probably a good idea to begin staking out your happy hour spot for Tuesday before you get your midday java. The pope is due to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base about 4 p.m., when he will be welcomed by President Obama. He’ll be laying his head at night at the Vatican’s embassy on upper Massachusetts Avenue NW near the Naval Observatory, which is the residence of the vice president. Plan your escape routes now, and don’t wait for Siri to suggest a spot you can’t possibly drive to.

Metro is promising to be on its best behavior, but be forewarned: The papal visit is about national security — not safety for transit riders and motorists.

For sure, the biggest travel headaches will come Wednesday if you aren’t careful. Wednesday is another pope and the president day, a parade along the National Mall in the Popemobile, a midday prayer at the wondrous and soul-stirring Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, and an afternoon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception near Catholic University. (If you can’t get to St. Matthew’s during the pope’s visit, worship another time. The fourth-oldest parish in the District, the church moved to its current location in the early 1890s. One of its notable events was the 1963 funeral Mass for President John F. Kennedy.) It will be at St. Matthew’s where Francis canonizes Father Junipero Serra.

The dozens of local and federal law enforcement agencies will remain on high alert Thursday, when Francis addresses a joint session of Congress before visiting St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in downtown, where traffic is a hot mess every day.

Residents and visitors for the papal visits in New York and Philly are in for similar traffic logjams.

Washington is used to high-profile visitors, including kings, queens and princes and princesses. Even the first Obama inaugural left us all weary. And although Francis isn’t the first pope to visit America or the nation’s capital, the visit by “The People’s Pope” is a bit special.

He’s a game-changer and we know it.

D.C. even painted the curbs just in his honor.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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