WWJD if he saw how much more attention we gave to a papal visit than ongoing violence?

Mayor Nutter (left) has spent a lot of Pope planning time with World Meeting of Families officials Donna Crilley Farrell and Robert J. Ciaruffoli. (MICHAEL BRYANT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

GOD FORGIVE me, but I couldn't care less about Pope Francis coming to Philly, and not just because I'm a lapsed Catholic who still remembers the sting of hearing my name read over the loudspeaker along with other students who were behind on our Catholic-school tuition.

Actually, God forgive those public-shaming nuns, but back to the pope.

I get that having the pontiff come to town is a big deal for a lot of believers, businesses and politicians, and that potentially it's going to bring a whole bunch of people, cash and cache to the city. Yay, us.

But my feelings about the city's response have gone from mildly amused, as big shots act more like nervous newlyweds, to completely disgusted as the city pours more resources into one weekend event than it ever would into issues that affect Philadelphians every single day.

Specifically, I'm talking about the relentless violence that plagued our city long before the pope decided to visit and that will continue long after our papal afterglow fades.

My colleague David Gambacorta said it best with a nine-word tweet: "Philly, we have bigger problems than a papal visit," accompanied by a photo of a Daily News story about the mayhem that's gripped us this summer. "In just one day: 10 shot, 3 stabbed, 5 dead," read the headline.

That day was followed by more bloodshed, which was followed by even more. When I checked in with the Police Department yesterday, it had recorded 692 people shot in Philadelphia and 161 slain, as compared to 621 and 149 this time last year.

At this rate, it looks as if we're going to end the summer the same way we started it . . . oh, you don't remember? That would be because the response to two mass shootings in less than 48 hours in June where several children were hit was a collective "meh."

It's not that we aren't trying to deal with the violence on some levels:

The Police Department recently launched a new crime-prevention effort on business corridors in poorer sections of the city.

A handful of organizations have taken to the streets this summer with a Summer Peace Tour to promote anti-violence solutions.

Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey called for an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and for passage of a bipartisan plan that would allow Pennsylvania cities to invest in crime-prevention strategies like youth mentoring.

The problem is that the efforts are never on the same 24/7 all-hands-and-agencies-on-deck scale as they are with other, temporary, events.

Before we get too far along here, a few things: I'm not hating on Philly for hosting high-profile events - we're the fifth-largest city in the U.S., we should act that way. And I appreciate that all the security around the pope's visit is as much about keeping the public safe as it is the pontiff. I'm also fine with giving our attention to multiple things at a time - except we don't.

If we did, we wouldn't continuously be battling bloodshed in this city.

Bottom line: It's about priorities, and the public-safety crisis that plagues this and so many other cities has never been prioritized the way it needs to be for any lasting effect.

Imagine if we applied the same time, energy and resources to street violence that we do the Made in America concert, the pope's visit, the upcoming Democratic National Convention and any number of ego-boosting distractions to come.

Imagine if 9,000 volunteers who signed up for the pope's visit volunteered to mentor kids in need?

Imagine if the mayor got his britches in a bunch - pun intended - at the lack of attention violence gets in the same way he did to Daily News columnist Will Bunch's column about how the city is (mis)handling papal plans? In case you missed it, Mayor Nutter wrote a lengthy open letter in response to Bunch's column.

More time and effort to something that many of the city residents I talked to don't give a hoot about because they're too consumed with trying to survive. Because they're trying to attain the level of comfort and security our leaders are prioritizing for our weekend guests but not our year-round citizens.

"I'm not someone who believes in crying wolf, but something has to be done," said Bilal Qayyum, president and founder of the Fathers' Day Rally Committee, one of the organizations behind the anti-violence Summer Peace Tour campaign. "The pope will be here and gone in three days. The people of Philadelphia will still be here."

You know the kind of open letter I'd like to see - one from a yet-to-be-identified city leader calling for sustainable, measurable plans to deal with the violence that is ruining lives and in the process, this city.

One that says that a 15-year-old black kid means more to us than a 78-year-old dude in a pointy hat, no matter how cool Pope Francis happens to be.

That's the kind of divine intervention we need.


Email: ubinas@phillynews.com

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