Philadelphia plans for possible papal visit
City officials announced that they're planning for a visit from Pope Francis, whether or not it's official, during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year.
Philadelphians won't learn for sure whether Pope Francis will visit the U.S. for the first time until March next year. For now, however, city officials are planning for the Pope's visit in September 2015 during the World Meeting of Families, an international, interfaith event that is expected to attract hundreds of thousands, and possibly a million if the Pope visits and says an outdoor mass.
During his first visit to Philadelphia, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, joined with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Archdiocese of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput to reveal this year's theme for the World Meeting of Families—"Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive." Pope Francis has not yet made an announcement about a his possible U.S. visit and public mass during the event.
"I am personally convinced that he's coming already, but not officially convinced because we haven't gotten an official announcement," Chaput told press at Independence Visitors Center.
Because of the expected large crowd, the city is working with the state and officials abroad to plan for a papal visit, working out issues of infrastructure and security.
"We will plan in anticipation that he might come," Nutter said. "It is better, in this instance, to be over-prepared under any set of circumstances than to be scrambling around three, four, five months trying to redo the planning."
The planning of the World Meeting of Families has been underway since the start of the year, with a delegation visit to Rome in March to meet with Pope Francis. The entire Pennsylvania Convention Center has already been reserved for Sept. 22 to 27 for families from around the world, including locally, to meet in breakout sessions that celebrate and examine family.
Chaput said that the church plans to reach out to non-Catholic religious leaders in the city and around the world so that Catholics can learn from other religions' family values.
"Everybody is welcome to this gathering," Chaput said when asked if the meeting would welcome families with same-sex parents. "Even if we have disagreements about what 'family' means, the virtues that are involved are all the same virtues about love and fidelity and support in times of need."
When asked about meeting with the Pope to convince him to visit Philadelphia, Paglia smiled and referred to his gift from Nutter, a miniature Liberty Bell, also the symbol of the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
"Surely I will give to the Pope a little bell from Philadelphia."