Federal govt.: Take day off or work from home during papal visit

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Pope Francis books and a doll are displayed at a souvenir store in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)

Federal government workers in Washington, D.C., should stay home when Pope Francis is in that city later this month.

The pontiff will be in Washington Sept. 22 to 24, before heading to New York City and then Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and 27.

The Office of Personnel Management said in a letter this week that the federal government in D.C. will be open during the pope's visit, but agencies are urged to let workers telework or take the day off.

"To help alleviate traffic congestion and minimize distraction to law enforcement and security officials, agencies are urged to permit employees to use their workplace flexibility options," the letter from Beth Cobert, OPM's acting director, said. "Accordingly, OPM strongly encourages agencies to allow employees to telework to keep the government operating while helping to minimize traffic congestion and support law enforcement efforts during this event."

The announcement for federal workers in D.C. comes days after a Washington Post article, which was widely derided in Philadelphia, mocked the city's preparations, saying Philadelphia's intensive security and traffic plans risk "reinforcing the notion that it is a second-rate stopover between Washington and New York City, both of which will host His Holiness and appear to be taking his arrival in stride."

The OPM letter casts some doubt on the contention that D.C. is taking the papal visit "in stride," with little disruption for residents: "Due to the increase in traffic, road closures, significant detours, crowded trains and buses, longer wait times at stops and stations, and related commuting disruptions on these days, Federal employees who work in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan area should expect significant commuting delays and travel disruptions."