6 Public Figures The Pope Should Definitely Meet In Philadelphia

by Bobby Styles

Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia is a great honor for the "City of Brotherly Love." Philadelphia has a thriving Irish and Italian-American community, and it boasts the country's fifth-largest Catholic population.

As a city with great historical significance, Philadelphia has a lot to offer a pope whose reputation as a liberal and forward thinker is already well-known and widely celebrated.

With such a storied history, though, the question is this: Who should the city put forward as representatives to make the best impression on the pontiff? Let's put together a list of candidates.

1. Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson's tenure in the NBA makes him an appropriate figurehead for the city. With his tattoos, cornrows, long shorts and flashy playing style, Iverson ushered the NBA into the hip-hop era, changing the aesthetics of the professional game to better reflect its audience.

These qualities made Iverson a controversial figure among those in the league audience and among more conservative hoops junkies, who preferred crisp ball-movement and quiet confidence to Iverson and his spiritual progeny's brashness and flair.

You could almost call his time in the league as the NBA's equivalent of Vatican II, when, among other changes, Catholicism embraced the vernacular as a means to modernize the mass and appeal to a generation who wanted to actually understand what was going on in the church.

Iverson may not be from Philadelphia, but he is beloved by everyone who watched him play there.

2. Dr. Guion Bluford

A surprisingly little-known and under-celebrated Philadelphian, Guion Bluford spent years in the US Air Force before being chosen by NASA to become an astronaut in 1979. Bluford was the first African-American in space, elected to the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997.

Pope Francis, meanwhile, is the first Jesuit pope, and also the first pope from the Americas.

Bluford and Francis each broke through and allowed others of their ancestry, who might have otherwise felt excluded or unwelcome from the highest levels of their fields, to have dreams they may not have otherwise considered.

3. Will Smith

This may seem an awkward choice at first, as Smith is widely rumored to be a member of the Church of Scientology.

However, that actually makes the meeting more appropriate because Pope Francis has been roundly praised/criticized for his acceptance of people who have faiths besides Catholicism.

Smith also went to Catholic school at Our Lady of Lourdes in West Philadelphia (where he was famously born and raised), so it's not like they would have nothing to talk about.

Perhaps, more importantly, though, it might mean getting the Pope in the same room as Will's son, Jaden Smith, a well-known free thinker and spouter of wisdom.

Those two might come out of a five-minute chat with a blueprint for a time machine and a solution to global poverty scribbled casually on the back of a communion wafer.

4. Tina Fey

Fey, who poked fun at religious fanaticism in her Netflix series, "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," is from Upper Darby, and she's probably the only pop-culture figurehead for female empowerment who the clergy would allow to meet the Pope without fearing that he would immediately burst into flames.

Plus, as she showed on her old show, "30 Rock," Fey can be borderline obnoxious in her support of Philadelphia. And is there really a more defining trait of Philadelphians than being obnoxiously supportive of the city?

5. Bill Cosby

It's become more public in the last couple of months that city icon Bill Cosby is (allegedly) an evil serial-rapist. The Pope carries a staff called a crosier, representative of his job as a shepherd to God's people.

He helps guide them through the temptations of the word that surrounds them into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Pope could use this crosier to beat the crap out of Cosby, sending a message that sexual abuse is not to be tolerated in the church.

6. Mayor Michael Nutter

Mayor Michael Nutter attended Jesuit St. Joseph's Preparatory school and is the highest-elected leader of the city, so I guess he should probably meet the Pope. As long as he doesn't do "Rapper's Delight" again.

Seriously, Mike, it's gotten old.