- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Not everyone going online to redistribute tickets for Pope Francis’ visit to the city is trying to make a buck.

When 10,000 free tickets to the pope’s Sept. 26 Independence Mall speech were snapped up in two minutes on Tuesday, some people immediately went online to sell theirs. But three friends from suburban New York held an essay contest to give theirs away.

Terry Casey, of suburban Philadelphia, won a pair with his entry. Casey’s first child’s middle name is Francis in honor of the pope. His wife is a Latin teacher, and he teaches religious education, mostly to confirmation students.

Both are Jesuit-educated, he wrote in his essay, and “we’ve both followed with glee the spread of Pope Francis’ message across the globe.”

Casey, the social media and communications coordinator for the Penn Memory Center in Philadelphia, said he is particularly pleased with Francis’ ability to spark interest in the church, even among non-Catholics.

“For the first time in many, many years, you have a lot of non-Catholics excited about what the Catholic Church is doing and saying,” Casey said.

He said that until he won the contest he had been resigned to watching the pope’s speech on a projection screen.

Only ticketholders will be able to attend the Independence Mall event.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia also made 10,000 free tickets available Wednesday afternoon for the Sept. 26 closing festival of the World Meeting of Families, which the pope will attend on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Some of those, too, were quickly put up for sale online.

Another 10,000-ticket giveaway was held Wednesday night for the pope’s Sept. 27 Mass, also on the parkway.

Anyone can attend the two parkway events, but tickets are required to get spots in the front viewing section, within about 2 1/2 blocks of the stage or altar.

Close to 1 million people are expected for the festival, up to 1.5 million for the Mass.

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