Once-in-a-lifetime events fill the City of Brotherly Love to welcome Pope Francis.
1. World Meeting of Families Film Festival
A still from Urban Trinity, which filmmaker Sam Katz says is not “a religious history [of Philadelphia], but about the religious glue that brought people together.”
If you can’t imagine dragging your kids to one more religious-themed event at the Convention Center, how about a movie instead? The World Meeting of Families has put together its four-day Film Festival in partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. The lineup features a range of inspirational films that aren’t outright churchy: A Man for All Seasons, The Way, Wide Awake, Invincible, The Wizard of Oz, and many more. The film fest runs from September 22 through 25 with all screening in the Perelman Theater of the Kimmel Center (except for the hugely popular Sing-a-Long Sound of Music at Dilworth Park on Friday night at 6 pm). For more information on what films are playing when, check out the Go Philadelphia! app created for the event. Don’t miss Sam Katz’s Urban Trinity: The Story of Catholic Philadelphia, which examines how Catholicism has shaped the politics and culture of our city. September 22–25
2. Festival of Families
Andrea Bocelli will delight the millions gathered at the foot of the Art Museum when he headlines the Festival of Families on September 26. He is seen here with conductor Eugene Kohn performing during the Miami Beach 100 Centennial Concert in March.
On September 26, the World Meeting of Families hosts its free Festival of Families at Eakins Oval, at the foot of the Art Museum. Music, readings, poetry, Pope Francis’s blessing of selected families, and other entertainment will run from the afternoon till around 10 pm. (The Holy Father is scheduled to make his 90-minute appearance at 7:30 pm.) Headlining in the evening are Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, Colombian pop singer Juanes, and The Philadelphia Orchestra, led by Yannick Nézet- Séguin. These artists will perform on a specially constructed stage—it will be transformed into an altar for afternoon mass the next day, during which the Orchestra will perform with a 500-person choir—in front of a crowd of close to a million.
It’s quite a career arc for maestro Nézet-Séguin, whose first experience conducting was at his local Catholic church, to conduct a full orchestra with millions watching on television and online. No set list has been released as of press time, but Bocelli, who recorded the best-selling classical album Arie Sacre and routinely fills stadiums of devoted fans, should keep the crowds happy with his special blend of pop-opera. Juanes, taking a break from his Loco De Amor concert tour, knows how to rev the party into high gear. He’s a two-time Grammy and 20-time Latin Grammy award winner with 10 number-one Billboard Latin singles. Both men, known for their charitable outreach work, have their own foundations. The pope should like that. Saturday, September 26, at Eakins Oval, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
3. Painting of 'The Sacred Now' Mural
Among the most lasting visual legacies of the papal visit is a new work from the Mural Arts Program. Designed by artist Cesar Viveros, The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century will be installed at Saint Malachy School in North Philly. Throughout the summer, Mural Arts organized paint days at places like The Children’s Hospital; in September WMOF participants will also contribute by painting some of the mural's 153 five-foot square panels.
Viveros explains how many of the figures in the work are based on real neighborhood people. “I asked local families to share the challenges and the love found in their relationships,” he says. Arranged as a triptych, the mural includes a small portrait of Pope Francis, but “he is not central,” says Viveros. “I think that he would prefer that.”