Federal officials have established tight security controls in Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia for this week’s visit by Pope Francis.
The Department of Homeland Security has classification the papal visit a “national special security event”—the same classification given to presidential inaugurations and NATO summit meetings. Several federal agencies are working with police in the three host cities to coordinate security plans.
In Washington, residents report that the security arrangements already in place are tighter than for any previous event. Federal government employees are being asked to work from home, if possible, on Tuesday through Thursday while Pope Francis is in the city. Reporters attending the Pope’s address to Congress on Thursday morning are being advised to arrive several hours before the 9:30 scheduled speech.
Security plans in Washington are complicated by the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive the day after the Pope’s departure. In New York, the Pope will celebrate Mass on Friday evening at Madison Square Garden, a building located directly above one of the city’s busiest commuter-rail stations, and security measures will entail mammoth disruptions in rush-hour service.
Secret Service officials have said that they have not seen any indications of a specific threat against the Pontiff, but remain vigilant because of the overall climate of concern about terrorist violence.