• Pop-up popes, Lego basilica welcome Francis to US


    WASHINGTON: Pope selfies, a basilica made of Lego, even pope-themed toast: Pope Francis has been popping up all over the northeastern United States ahead of his visit next week.

    Some fun facts as the country prepares to welcome the pope in Washington on September 22 before he heads on to New York and Philadelphia:

    A priest in Pennsylvania is building a replica of St. Peter’s Basilica out of Lego blocks in honor of Pope Francis’s visit.

    Father Bob Simon of Saint Catherine of Siena parish in Moscow, Pennsylvania, has used half a million blocks to produce a scaled-down version of the Vatican City basilica and its adjoining colonnaded piazza.

    Six months in the making, the work will be on show September 19 to February 15 at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, near where the pope will attend the World Meeting of Families event.

    A figurine will represent Father Simon in “contemplation” before the Vatican, which he has visited five times, according to the Franklin Institute.

    You can toast the pope’s visit in a whole new way with the “Pope Toaster”, which brands Francis’s image onto a slice of bread.

    For a spot of variety at breakfast, it can also print the words “Spread the Love”, images of Philadelphia icons Ben Franklin or the Liberty Bell.

    Billed as the “best thing since sliced bread” the Pope Toaster will set you back about $50.

    A cardboard cut-out representing Pope Francis has been cropping up all over Philadelphia, snapped in selfies by Catholic fans across the city.

    Appearances of the “pop-up” pope can be followed on social media under the hashtag #popuppope or on the Twitter account @PopUpPope.

    The cardboard likeness is being used to evangelize and spread news about the real-life Francis’ visit, says the account.

    Famous for residing in a spartan bedroom rather than the opulent Papal Apartments in the Vatican, Francis will stay in an upscale Washington neighborhood lined with embassies and the vice president’s residence while visiting the city.

    The pope will be put up at the Apostolic Nunciature, the Holy See’s embassy of sorts in the US, the Washington Archdiocese confirmed to Agence France-Presse after initial reports in news outlet Politico. The building is across a tree-lined street from Vice President Joe Biden’s official residence.

    Diehard Francis fans will be able to follow every minute of his trip, first to Cuba then to the United States, on at least two dedicated television stations.

    From September 20 to 27, cable provider Time Warner will provide 24-hour coverage of the pope’s speeches, masses and visits on a special “Papal Visit 2015” channel, also accessible online or through their TWC News app.

    Its coverage is likely to be more secular than that of Catholic network EWTN (Eternal World Television Network), which will also carry live broadcasts, according to the network’s website.

    El Papa blesses cross 

    The first pontiff from the Americas will bless a five-foot (1.5-meter) wooden cross known as the “Cross of the Encuentros” in Philadelphia September 26.

    The cross symbolizes the spiritual journeys of US Latinos, according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Hispanics account for nearly half of US Catholics.

    Queen of Soul meets Bishop of Rome 

    Aretha Franklin will perform for the pope at the World Meeting of Families event in Philadelphia.

    Daughter of a Baptist minister, Franklin, 73, began her career singing gospel songs, and her first album “Songs of Faith” was recorded in her father’s church when she was 14.

    Polyglot pontiff 

    Pope Francis, 78, is expected to give 28 speeches, eight in Cuba and 18 in the US.

    Only four of those are expected to be in English, including his address to a joint session of the US Congress September 24. The next morning he will give a speech in Spanish to the UN General Assembly.



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