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Philly: World Meeting of Families

Philadelphia archdiocese hopeful that Pope Francis will attend 2015 gathering . . .

Now that Pope Francis has been installed as the 266th successor of St. Peter, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is hopeful the Holy Father’s first visit to North America is only two years away.

The Vatican officially announced on Feb. 25 that the City of Brotherly Love had been officially chosen to host the eighth World Meeting of Families in 2015.

Papal visit?

This marks the first time that the event, established by Blessed John Paul II in 1994, will be held in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world are expected to attend. The event was last hosted in 2012 by Milan, Italy, where more than 1 million people from 153 nations gathered for a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

The announcement represents positive news for an archdiocese that has been unsettled recently by sexual-abuse scandals and Catholic school closings.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Faithful Catholics, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput explained, long for an opportunity “to show their love of God and his Church to the world, to deepen God’s presence in their own families and to share Jesus Christ with a world that urgently needs him.”

The meeting, which seeks to celebrate the good news of the family and its intrinsic value to the good of society, will be held Sept. 22-27, 2015.

“The more we encourage and support the integrity of families, the healthier society becomes,” said Archbishop Chaput.

In a standing-room-only conference room crowded with cameras and media, Archbishop Chaput, in response to a question, stated that he fully expected the new pope to attend the meeting in Philadelphia.

Not just for Catholics

In 1979, John Paul II visited the Philadelphia region, which is home to an estimated 1.5 million Catholics. But, as the Philadelphia archbishop pointed out, the meeting isn’t only for Catholics.

“The World Meeting of Families is meant to be a gift not just to Catholics in Philadelphia, but to every person of good will in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and surrounding areas,” the archbishop said. “Everyone with a generous heart is welcome to be a part of it.”

Archbishop Chaput, in a lighthearted moment, said, “I’ve been asked why the Holy Father picked Philadelphia. The answer is simple. His Holiness didn’t tell me.”

But he quickly pointed out Philadelphia’s “uniquely rich” history as one of the birthplaces of the political ideals of human rights, religious freedom and human dignity. The issue of religious liberty was close to Emeritus Pope Benedict’s heart for many years, and he spoke about it many times throughout his pontificate.

“He’s always seen the strength of the family as a guarantee of human maturity and freedom,” noted Archbishop Chaput of the now-retired Pope. “The more we encourage and support the integrity of families, the healthier society becomes.”

He also pointed to Philadelphia as being home to two great American saints — Mother Katharine Drexel and Bishop John Neumann, whose legacies of Catholic education and service continue today in Catholic ministries.

Archbishop Chaput told reporters that the cost of the event in Milan was in excess of $15 million, and that a lay board would be working in coming months with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to raise funds for the expenses associated with the meeting.

The logo for the eighth World Meeting of Families was also unveiled on Feb. 25 — a bell with a cross and five distinct figures, designed to reflect “family unity, the city itself and also the city’s role as the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States,” according to a statement by the archdiocese.

MATT ARCHBOLD is a Philadelphia-based journalist. This article has been updated from the original version, published at NCRegister.com on Feb. 25. Reprinted with permission.