Planners for the Sept. 22-25 event in Philadelphia had counted on between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors to attend the lectures, breakout sessions and other events associated with the congress.
By mid-June, 11,000 people have registered. Of that number 1,100 young people have signed up for the youth congress for kids ages 5-17, said Lizanne Pando, communications director for the World Meeting of Families.
The projections were based on what officials believed would be a probable increase in attendance since 2012, when the seventh World Meeting of Families was held in Milan and drew 7,000 participants, Pando said.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations. I think we’re on our way to full capacity,” Pando said.
The World Meeting of Families, with the theme “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” will take place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
The program will include daily Mass, devotions, keynote speakers and multiple extra activities. Workshops and panel discussions will be led by some 100 speakers.
The highlight of the event will follow with the visit by Pope Francis to the city on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26-27.
Founded by St. John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families is held every three years and, besides Milan, the event has been held in Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City. Each event is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican, and by the host diocese, in this case the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Pando said pilgrims will gather in Philadelphia from 123 countries, with the United States, Canada, Vietnam, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic leading in registrations. Among those, 1,000 attendees have been awarded scholarships to pay for their journey.
“We have received 22 language interpretation requests, most of them — 1,100 — from Vietnam,” she said. “The keynote speeches will be given in English, Spanish, French, Portugese, Italian and Vietnamese.”
To register for the World Meeting of Families and find packages of various costs, visit www.worldmeeting2015.org/.