Rome being crushed by millions of pilgrims packing into the city for historic canonization
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/24/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
All roads lead to Rome and that isn't a happy thing for everybody as the city is being crushed by millions of pilgrims seeking to attend the canonization of Bl. Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. The city's mayor says the city is prepared, but not everyone is happy about the estimated 3 million visitors that have already begun to arrive.
Pilgrims are packing into Rome, creating a logistical and safety problem for city officials.
ROME, ITALY (Catholic Online) - Rome is being crushed by millions of visitors. Already the city's population has swelled by at least a million people and by Sunday that number could grow to somewhere between three and four million souls. The arrival of so many pilgrims is sorely testing the city's infrastructure and some are worried that the city cannot handle so many people.
The month of March saw 2 million pilgrims arrive in Rome, a number that has increased because of the popularity of Pope Francis. The city managed to host that number, mostly because their arrivals and departures were spread out over the month. This weekend, the city will have at least 3 million visitors all on one day, effectively doubling the population of the city for at least a day.
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It's one thing to attend the Mass, be it at St. Peter's Square or projected on a big screen at one of the several specially designated locations throughout the city, but it's another thing to get around, eat, sleep, and use the facilities in a city built for half the number of people present.
Workers prepare for the crush of visitors that have already begun to arrive.
Many roads will be closed to vehicle traffic, leaving walking as the only option. Taxi drivers are unhappy about this, although it's going to be a frustrating day for any drivers between the pedestrians and the added vehicle traffic.
An estimated 2,000 buses will be arriving and most have been assigned places on the outskirts of Rome for parking. From those points, pilgrims will be shuttled to and from St. Peter's Square and other locations.
St. Peter's was packed for last Sunday's Easter Mass. Next Sunday will be even more so.
Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino has said the city is ready. 2,000 police will be on the streets at all times and will be aided by 2,500 civil protection volunteers. There will be 13 first aid stations and a thousand port-a-potties have been set up throughout the city. About 4 million bottles of water will also be distributed to thirsty pilgrims.
Parish churches will be open around the clock, but mostly so people can come and pray. Parish priests are concerned that pilgrims will use the churches for sleeping, which is likely. Nobody is expected to do much about that since churches are expected to serve as sanctuaries in extraordinary times.
Extraordinary indeed is the present time. Two of the last century's most influential popes will be canonized in a ceremony presided by two popes, Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict. About two billion people are expected to view the ceremony live on TV around the world on Sunday.
The entire visit is expected to cost about $11 million, some of which will be paid by the Italian government. The city has already been cleaned up and illegal billboards torn down, graffiti painted over. Officials are hoping to make a good impression on the world, but they clearly understand the challenge at hand.
Mayor Marino made his understanding plain when he told the media that Pope Francis warned him, "You will dance on April 27," the statement has a negative connotation in Italy. Marino then added, "I hope that I will only have to do a little dancing."
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