GSA Mid-Atlantic Supports Pope Francis' Historic Trip to Philadelphia

The City of Philadelphia hosted Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families in September, and GSA’s Mid-Atlantic Region worked over nine months in preparation to support the federal community during this historic event.

GSA engaged in extensive interagency planning and coordination efforts leading up to the Papal Visit.  GSA’s Office of Mission Assurance (OMA) partnered with the Philadelphia Federal Executive Board (FEB) to hold meetings throughout the summer with federal agency heads to discuss potential impacts of the Papal Visit to the Philadelphia metropolitan area.  

OMA and FEB conduct annual interagency continuity exercises for the Philadelphia federal community.  We developed the “Liberty Down ’15” exercise in June to assist federal agencies in preparing for the World Meeting of Families (WMoF) and Papal Visit, simulating the response to a large crowd event in Philadelphia.  Over 150 employees representing 50 different federal, state, and local agencies and departments participated in the exercise.

GSA’s clients, including the U.S. Secret Service as well as a variety of law enforcement agencies, were tasked with elements of security during the Papal Visit.  Secretary Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated the event as a National Special Security Event (NSSE).

In order to support the mission of these law enforcement agencies during this NSSE, GSA managed the project to build-out and equip the 25,000 square foot Multi-Agency Communications Center (MACC), which served as the federal community’s nerve center for the Pope’s entire visit.  Over 50 federal and law-enforcement agencies staffed the MACC to monitor and respond to the week’s events.  

When Pope Francis chose to give a speech, open to the public, at Independence Hall during his visit, GSA helped establish and staff the Joint Information Command Center (JIC) in the nearby William J. Green, Jr. Federal Building, where the U.S. Secret Service provided security credentials to the people who would need to be stationed in the building and surrounding plaza.  

With security heightened and access into and out of downtown Philadelphia restricted, the Green Federal Building also served as a makeshift hotel for agencies.  GSA personnel stayed and managed building operations throughout the weekend.  The Green Federal Building and James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse loading dock even played host to the Popemobile!

GSA remains dedicated to supporting our partner agencies in achieving their missions, and is proud to have played an important role in Pope Francis’ historic visit to Philadelphia.


This article is part of the Winter issue of the FOCUS newsletter. Please visit the Focus Newsletter page to read our newsletter. To subscribe to FOCUS, complete the online subscription form.

Last Reviewed 2015-12-15