While crowds in the thousands backed up throughout Center City, VIPs and ticketed audience members who made it through the gates earlier were beginning to take their seats.
Music programming started at noon with a Christian rock singer a gospel group and a soprano setting the tone with a soaring Aria.
Sister Likia Kagendo, 52, is originally from Harrisburg but is getting her degree in theology at Villanova. She got a ticket for the VIP section through the Holy Child Sisters with whom she is living.
In Harrisburg Kagendo works with refugee families. The message of family and Pope Francis' focus on it, she said, has redoubled her interest in that work.
"When I look at the multitudes of people and families here who come and wait and stay to see him it gives me a picture of Jesus, how they came and did not move. He's not only here for Catholics but for everyone," she said.
Jim O'Hara and his wife Colleen, both of Springfield waited in the VIP section. He was on the board of Education for the Archdiocese for several years and called the pope's Philadelphia visit a relief after some naysaying.
"It's amazing. I'm glad it's turned out so well after the negative anticipation. The mayor was right when he said, 'embrace it,' O'Hara said gesturing to the assembled masses behind him.
O'Hara also commended the pope for bringing people back into the church with his willingness to address the church's past ills head on.
"He's reemerge zed the Catholic community. He's been direct. Not hiding talking about the priest scandal that hit Philadelphia. He has, frankly given a nice jolt to Catholicism."
Music continues until the mass begins at 4pm with the Philadlrphia Orchestra. The mass program shows A collection of classical hymns including Beethoven's Hallelujah from Christus Am Olberge, Op 85, and selections by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Dvorak.