In September of 2015 the City of Brotherly Love will figuratively expand its motto for a week to include the entire family and will have the man who is arguably the most popular person in the world sitting at the head of the table.
Pope Francis confirmed in late November that he will make his first visit to the United States as pope during the final days of the World Meeting of Families, which will convene in Philadelphia in late September.
With up to 15,000 attendees expected for the gathering of families from around the country and the world Sept. 22-25, organizers are planning hotel and other accommodations plus a full slate of top speakers and activities for what will be the largest convention for Philadelphia next year.
“The World Meeting of Families will deal with a wide range of family issues where our faith is both needed and tested,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. “These are matters that affect families not only here in the United States but on a global scale.”
Addressing those matters in six keynote speeches and 67 breakout sessions — each allowing for 15-20 minutes of questions and answers with 700 to 1,000 people per session — will be speakers including Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, and other bishops, priests and religious sisters, plus Helen Alvare, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and author Scott Hahn.
Archbishop Chaput told the bishops in Baltimore that the meeting’s content will deal not only with “neuralgic sexual issues that seem to dominate the American media,” but also poverty, addiction, children with disabilities, the loss of a spouse, divorce and co-parenting, health and wellness and how these issues affect the family.
Other themes such as “creating real intimacy between husband and wife” and the roles of grandparents and the parish community to help deal with the challenges of raising children would also be examined, the archbishop said.
Mounting an event of this size could be daunting for the financially challenged archdiocese. “The good news is that we’ve already raised more than half of what we need,” Archbishop Chaput told the bishops. “We’ve also had wonderful cooperation from the city, state and federal authorities.”
He added, “We’ve made good progress, but we still have a long way to go.”
Registration and other information is available at www.worldmeeting2015.org.
Sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is a triennial global event that seeks to strengthen the sacred bonds of family across the globe and highlight its intrinsic value to the good of society. Being held in the United States for the first time ever, the official theme for the 2015 World Meeting of Families is “Love is our mission: the family fully alive.”
Confirmation of the pope’s attendance had an almost immediate effect on hotel reservations in Philadelphia: booking agencies reported that every hotel in the downtown area was fully booked for the duration of the conference by early December.
The pontiff’s trip will mark the second papal visit to Philadelphia in a generation. St. Pope John Paul II visited the city in 1979. Francis will be the fourth sitting pope to visit the United States.
He also may travel elsewhere during his trip. In August, Pope Francis told reporters accompanying him on the plane back from South Korea that he “would like” to go to Philadelphia. The pope also noted that President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress had invited him to Washington, D.C., and that the secretary-general of the United Nations had invited him to New York.
“Maybe the three cities together, no?” Pope Francis said, adding that he could also visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on the same trip — “but it is not certain.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Nov. 17 that Pope Francis wanted to “guarantee organizers” that he would be present at the meeting in Philadelphia, “but he did not say anything about other possible stops or events during that trip. And for now I do not have anything to add in that regard.”
During his Philadelphia visit, Pope Francis is expected to attend the Festival of Families on Sept. 26, a cultural celebration for hundreds of thousands of people long Philadelphia’s main cultural boulevard, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He is also expected to celebrate a public Mass for an estimated 1 million people the next day on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—the scene of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” victory dance—in full view of the crowds arrayed from the museum down the Ben Franklin Parkway.