While Archbishop Charles Chaput has dealt with various challenges over the past nine months in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in recent weeks he has experienced a few pleasant surprises. One of those surprises happened when he learned that Pope Benedict XVI had chosen Philadelphia as the site of the World Meeting of Families in 2015, which the Archbishop discussed with the media June 5.
“It was a great surprise to me that this option became available to us,” Archbishop Chaput said. “I think God is giving us an opportunity to have some good news in the midst of a very difficult time. I think it will be a great blessing for us and hopefully for the Church in the United States and for our country.”
The Pope usually attends the World Meeting of Families, and the Archbishop said Pope Benedict plans on traveling to Philadelphia. “He expressed enthusiasm and he said, ‘I look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia,’ but he reminded me that he will be 88 at that time and God willing he would be with us,” the Archbishop said.
While Archbishop Chaput was pleased with the opportunity to host the gathering in Philadelphia, he conveyed his concerns about the cost of the five-day event, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to Milan, Italy, with an estimated 1 million people attending the closing Mass Pope Benedict celebrated June 3.
“I don’t think we could afford that kind of crowd,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We would be comfortable working with a crowd of 60,000 to 80,000.”
Although the Archbishop acknowledged that it may be difficult to control the number of people who attend the meeting, he said, “We certainly want to be welcoming of anybody who wants to come, especially families, because that is what it is all about.”
A major fundraising effort will be conducted, not just here in Philadelphia but across the country, he said. “That will be a lot of work, and it will be my responsibility to do that,” the Archbishop added.
The event is planned by Pontifical Council for the Family, and Archbishop Chaput estimated that the planning process would begin this September or October. He noted there will be local, national and international committees formed to assist with the planning process.
A second surprise happened while Archbishop Chaput was in Milan. He and a family from South Carolina were not only invited to have lunch with Pope Benedict, they were seated at the Pontiff’s table.
“Everyone was a bit nervous,” Archbishop Chaput said. “For a family not expecting something like this it was quite an extraordinary experience. For me, the great joy was their experience of this opportunity.”
He added that the younger children in the family “ran around the other side of the table and hugged the Pope.”
Archbishop Chaput said he had informed Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett about the meeting. He added that the Archdiocese will “work closely with city officials” in planning the event. “We’ll do our best to be good citizens, to understand that any decisions we make have an impact on the broader community,” the Archbishop said.
A date has not been selected, but Archbishop Chaput the meeting would likely be held in July or August 2015.
“It was a great adventure going to Milan, and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I was very touched by the whole gathering. That kind of positive thing for me will be so much more when it is actually here in Philadelphia. Even though it’s going to be a lot of work, I’m very much looking forward to the World Meeting of Families in 2015.”
To view a video of Archbishop Chaput discussing the 2015 World Meeting of Families, visit http://www.youtube.com/user/CatholicPhilly?feature=em-share_video_user
For more information on the Pontifical Council for the Family, visit http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_pro_20051996_en.html