While some people were worried about getting to the next papal event or grabbing a bite to eat, many groups were having their own parades down the streets of Philly.
They could be heard from a mile away, walking down the streets that are usually filled with cars. Pilgrims were singing in other languages, most in Spanish, with flags, guitars and drums.
They were celebrating what the pope later in his address at Independence Hall told them not to be ashamed of — their traditions and where they come from.
One group had come all the way from Panama, waving their flags, banging tambourines, proudly singing in unison.
It was like a sub-event of the papal visit — groups doing their own thing, coming together as a community.
“Hallelujah” some of them sang. One group even made a circle, dancing around a woman playing guitar.
“This is how we celebrate,” Freddy Sosa said. He was with a Spanish-speaking group from Our Lady of Peace of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Sosa and his fiancé, Yuvia Arriaga, said it’s nice that they don’t need any translators when listening to the pope.
“It’s easier for us,” Sosa said.
A bilingual, Spanish and English-speaking group from Peoria, Il. agreed that sharing a language is meaningful. But it doesn’t matter what language you speak, Martina Valgado said. Everyone comes together to listen.
In the pope’s address at Independence Hall, he addressed the issue of immigration again.
“Many of you have immigrated, and I greet you with particular affection,” Pope Francis said. “Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face. I ask you not to forget like those who came before you, you bring many gifts to this nation. Please don’t ever be ashamed of your traditions.”
Sosa and his fiancé, Yuvia Arriaga, think it’s a good thing the pope is talking about immigration, especially the way the government is right now, Sosa said. “It needs to be addressed.”
Another Spanish-speaking group from Dallas also paraded the streets and later celebrated in Benjamin Franklin Parkway as members were waiting for the pope to arrive.
Perla Fabela, 18, was with the group with her dad. She said she had heard the pope has said before that Christianity is based off of love.
“We shouldn’t discriminate against each other,” Fabela said.
Jan Swarthout of York Township was in Philadelphia for the papal visit Saturday, and one of the first things she noticed was people from all over, including Africa and China, parading. There were even bagpipers in the square. “It’s very exciting,” she said.
A few generations ago her family came over on a boat from Italy to New York Harbor. Her mother’s parents are from Canada. “Chances are your relatives came over the border,” Swarthout said.
If you think of it that way, she said, she agrees with the pope that we should be a welcoming country.
Lauren Deemer, parishioner at St. Bruno in Greensburg, listened to the pope’s address on a jumbotron at Independence Hall Saturday afternoon. “He seemed very adamant about what he was saying,” she said. Though she could see him, it was hard to hear.
“This country was founded on immigrants,” Deemer said. “It’s what makes us unique in this world.”