Among the thousands expected for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this week, 480 couples from across the globe will attend on scholarships provided by the World Meeting. It is an effort to assure that people of all income levels have an opportunity to participate in the congress.
“As part of its overall plan, the World Meeting of Families-Philadelphia 2015 had always accounted for the provision of scholarships to families in dioceses where there are broad socioeconomic challenges,” said Kenneth Gavin, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in a written statement. “It was important for families who could not otherwise afford to attend be given the opportunity to do so.”
The World Meeting of Families allotted a total of 201 scholarships directly to various dioceses to be distributed by the local bishop. Every diocese in Mexico, Canada, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, as well as 21 dioceses in the United States, received scholarships.
In addition, the World Meeting granted 39 scholarships to national conferences of Catholic bishops throughout the world to distribute as they saw fit, providing 16 to Africa, seven to Asia, five to Europe, and 11 to South America, Central America and the Caribbean combined.
Each scholarship provides transportation, lodging, meals and congress registration for two couples.
A scholarship has an estimated value of approximately $5,000 per couple, based on the congress registration fee and a seven-night stay in the region not including airfare. Early registration rates for the congress ran $650 per couple, while hotel reservations — calculated using rates posted on the World Meeting of Families website — averaged approximately $200 per night Monday through Thursday and $380 per night the weekend of the papal visit.
The scholarships will diversify the socioeconomic and geographic representation at the congress. Without financial assistance, the cost to attend would have been otherwise unreachable for many.
With 17,500 registered attendees, the eighth World Meeting is already one of the most successful since the event was begun by St. John Paul II in 1994. The Philadelphia congress exceeded an early estimate of 15,000 participants, and is double the attendance of the last World Meeting in 2012 in Milan, Italy.