Artists paint an image of Pope Francis on the side of a building in New York City Aug. 27. The mural, which will be 225-feet tall when completed, faces Madison Square Garden, where the pope will celebrate Mass Sept. 25. The artwork was commissioned by DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz
Artists paint an image of Pope Francis on the side of a building in New York City Aug. 27. The mural, which will be 225-feet tall when completed, faces Madison Square Garden, where the pope will celebrate Mass Sept. 25. The artwork was commissioned by DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By David Karas | Correspondent

Preparations are underway in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, and in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York for the visit of Pope Francis. Organizers have launched a special website for the momentous occasions, www.WorldMeeting2015.org, and the constantly updated web platform includes everything you need to know about the events.

We are also keeping tabs on plans throughout the region, as well as in parishes across the Diocese of Trenton, and will be sharing news as soon as it is available. Be sure to read The Monitor and visit www.TrentonMonitor.com for updates. And if you know about a parish event you would like to share, email us at Monitor-News@DioceseofTrenton.org.

Here are some of the latest updates:

Papal playbook available online

Organizers of the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis planned for Philadelphia later this month have released the much-anticipated “Papal Playbook,” a virtual guide detailing plans for the historic occasions as well as tips for those throughout the region seeking to visit the City of Brotherly Love.

The guide, available at http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/papalplaybook/, includes information related to traveling to, from and within Philadelphia for the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27, with details for city residents, as well.

The playbook includes city services that will be provided during the visit, and outlines various events taking place throughout the city.

“We are proud to develop and deliver this important resource to residents, not just in Center City Philadelphia but across the five-county region, as well as South Jersey and Delaware,” said Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director for the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015. “There is so much information – both requested and needed – to help residents to plan for this special global event.”

She continued, “…we sought to offer a central access point for the distribution of vetted and correct information related to the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis. This living document not only focuses on how to navigate the city during this one weekend, but also highlights all of the ways in which residents can be part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience beyond attendance at the Papal events on Saturday and Sunday.”

The playbook will continue to be updated as needed, in the weeks and days leading up to the festivities.

Amtrak announces extra trains, more seats

As the first visit of Pope Francis to the United States nears, Amtrak has announced plans for increased service along the Northeast Corridor during the Pontiff’s visits to New York, Washington and Philadelphia.

The national train network will operate additional trains with increased capacity to meet anticipated demand. The Northeast Corridor line, with service to the three cities to be visited by the Pope, is uniquely positioned to provide passage for faithful to each of the cities, organizers have noted.

Officials have released a special schedule with additional train stops and frequencies, though they note that passengers should expect large crowds – particularly at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. And while the bulk of additional services will focus on the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27, additional coaches will be added to normally operating trains the week before.

“To better ensure efficient train movements for all users of the [Northeast Corridor], Amtrak will suspend maintenance activities, pre-position rescue equipment to quickly respond to any disabled trains, and continuously share real-time dispatching information with our regional transit agency partners,” Amtrak officials said in a release.

Reservations for Acela Express, Northeast Regional and Keystone Service trains running between Friday, Sept. 25 and Monday, Sept. 28 will require reservations. Tickets are now available online.

Visit Amtrak.com/papalvisit for more information or to purchase tickets.

NJ Transit, SEPTA offer transit updates

Regional transit authorities have also released plans for those seeking to travel to and from Philadelphia for the visit of Pope Francis:

NJ Transit announced that limited special service will be offered Sept. 26 and 27, and will not operate regular weekend service on the Atlantic City Rail Line or the River Line. Special tickets to use either of the lines are available online at www.NJtransit.com.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority has posted schedules for intra-city travel, as well as regional rail services during the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27. Special regional rail passes that were previously expected to sell out still remain available for purchase at select stations.

For more information on transit options through SETPA, visit http://septa.org/fares/special-papal-visit.html.

Papal parades planned for Sept. 26 and 27

Organizers of the World Meeting of Families have confirmed Papal Parades along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 26 and 27.

The first parade will bring Pope Francis from Eakins Oval to and around City Hall, before the Festival of Families on Sept. 26, and those gathered along the Parkway and beyond will have the chance to see the Pontiff up close, organizers say.

The path of the second parade, which will take place before the Papal Mass Sept. 27, will be finalized in the coming weeks. Organizers said that the second parade will be shorter, in order to ensure that the Mass begins on time.

 “We are delighted to confirm two papal parades with Pope Francis on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which will bring the Holy Father to all those who are coming to see him,” said Crilley Farrell, WMOF executive director.

Philadelphia officials, organizers: ‘Be There’ for Pope Francis

Amid media hype and a litany of news conferences detailing the many transit plans and security restrictions that will be put into place in Philadelphia to ensure safety during the visit of Pope Francis, event organizers are extending a special message to would-be attendees: “Come and be a part of history.”

“The Francis Festival is exactly what we have always envisioned for these two days – a joyful celebration across the entire city,” said Crilley Farrell, in announcing a special festival area being established in the city. “So much has been made of colored lines, boxes and perimeters that we risk losing the grace, beauty and excitement of having Pope Francis come to Philadelphia.”

She continued, “Being ‘on the Parkway’ or ‘at Independence Hall’ are not the only ways in which our community can be part of this spectacular event. It is about shared moment of community, family and great fun. The Francis Festival is meant to remind us all of this and it is our great hope that our efforts will energize and excite our region. There simply is no magic in sharing the memory of ‘I watched it on television.’”

One of the central efforts among organizers is the “I’ll Be There” campaign, aiming to energize businesses and residents throughout the region who will take part in the festivities.

“’I’ll Be There’ is a grassroots campaign rooted in the public declaration of participation in this historic event for Philadelphia,” organizers said in a release. “Reimagining the Center City area from South Street to Girard Avenue and the Delaware River to 38th Street as ‘The Francis Festival Grounds,’ the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 and the City are creating a celebratory, fun and welcoming experience for the anticipated crowds from around the world already planning to attend but also for local residents – all of whom are invited to join in this historic, global event.”

The Francis Festival grounds will be open Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 from 6 a.m. through 11 p.m., and portions of the grounds will not require security checkpoint clearance. According to organizers, U.S. Secret Service checkpoints will be positioned close to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Independence Mall. Those outside of the checkpoints will be able to enjoy vendors and some 40 Jumbotrons throughout the Francis Festival grounds, as well as other entertainment and programming.

All those attending the Francis Festival and entering the grounds along South Street, Girard Avenue, Columbus Boulevard or 38th Street will receive holy medals and/or prayer cards – which can be blessed by Pope Francis during his formal blessing regardless of where one is in the festival grounds.

A new website, www.FrancisFestival.com has been established, and organizers have put together an updated transportation page outlining options for those seeking to attend. SEPTA and PATCO trains will deliver riders directly to the festival grounds, and riders will not have more than a mile to walk to access the Benjamin Franklin Parkway or Independence Mall when riding to Center City.

Merchants throughout the city are also encouraged to join through displaying “#OpenInPHL” signage indicating that they will remain open throughout the visit of Pope Francis.