The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


Picture of Basilica congregation before Pope Francis processed in. | Courtesy of Father Tom Whittingham.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Center City this morning as Pope Francis celebrated mass for a packed congregation.

In his first address to the faithful in Philadelphia, the pontiff spoke about the importance of women, young people and the laity to the future of the Catholic Church.

Referencing St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia native, in his homily, Francis spoke about the contributions that young people, especially women, have brought to the Church. Drexel, the heiress of a wealthy Philadelphia family, forwent her fortune to devote her life to Christ as a religious sister.

He spoke of “valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious have made, and continue to make, to the life of our communities,” bringing many women in the crowd to tears.

“All the nuns were crying,” Penn Newman Vice President and College and Wharton senior Andrea Muglia said. Muglia received tickets to Francis’ mass from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and represented Penn at the Basilica. The mass was not a public event, and attendees — many of them priests and seminarians — needed a ticket to get in.

Francis entered the 151-year-old cathedral like a rock star, with even the most dignified of priests and laypeople taking pictures on their phones and screaming the pope’s name.

“You’re inside the church, and you hear people screaming,” Muglia said. “Then you see a small little man [walk down the aisle].”

Father Tom Whittingham, a 2006 Wharton graduate and Catholic priest who also attended the Pope’s mass, agreed.

“Everyone, even those who are normally dismissive of the Church, were paying attention,” he said.

Whittingham is the pastor of St. Katharine Drexel, a church in Chester, Pa., and appreciated the Pope’s spotlight on Drexel.

“She really does exemplify someone who noticed a need and focused on it,” he said.

Muglia and Whittingham applauded the Pope’s focus on recognizing the influence and abilities of young people.

“We need to keep young people [involved] because they’re passionate about social justice and serving the least among us,” Whittingham said in a characterization of Francis’ homily.

He believes the Pope’s popularity with young people will help restore Catholic pride among millennials.

“When you’re down here, it’s like we don’t need to be ashamed of being Catholic anymore,” Whittingham said.

In a spontaneous moment typical of his papacy, Francis ended mass by visiting the congregants seated in a chapel in the Basilica to bless children and people with disabilities.

“It was beautiful,” Muglia said.

Francis will continue his visit to Philadelphia this weekend with a speech outside Independence Hall on the issues of religious toleration and immigration. The address is set to start at 4:45 p.m. The pope will then parade through Center City before making an appearance at the Festival of Families on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the Basilica is 79 years old when it is in fact 151 years old. The DP regrets the error.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.