.- Pope Benedict XVI personally chose Philadelphia as the site for the next World Meeting of Families and, health permitting, will attend the 2015 event, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said.
The archbishop discussed the Pope’s possible visit at an afternoon press conference in Philadelphia on June 5.
“He said he hoped to be there, but he reminded me he’s 85 years old and he’d be 88 at that time, and God willing he will be with us,” Archbishop Chaput said. “He’s a man who trusts God’s providence, and I do too.”
The World Meeting of Families, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, takes place every three years. It brings together hundreds of thousands of people to pray, celebrate and study marriage and family life. Archbishop Chaput and Pope Benedict attended the 2012 event in Milan.
Archbishop Chaput attended the final Mass with a military family from South Carolina who represented the United States.
“Surprisingly, the six of them and myself were invited to lunch, and not only to lunch, but to the same table as the Pope,” he said.
The archbishop said a “large number of people” usually attend the World Meeting of Families, and typically the Pope visits for the final days of the event. The closing Mass for the 2012 gathering in Milan was attended by 1 million people.
The archbishop also discussed the choice of Philadelphia in an interview with the World Meeting of Families organizers.
He said he had received a letter from the Pontifical Council for Families three months ago asking if Philadelphia would be interested in hosting the next meeting.
“These are difficult times for our diocese; I was worried. So in my answer I said we would be happy to take on the job, but I underscored our financial and logistical problems,” he said in the interview released June 5.
The Philadelphia archdiocese faces continuing fallout from sex abuse scandals and has been forced to close dozens of Catholic schools because of a lack of financial resources.
Six weeks ago, Archbishop Chaput said, Rome wrote again saying that the difficulties of the archdiocese in hosting the event were “understandable” but “notwithstanding everything the Pope had personally decided on Philadelphia.”
Pope Benedict announced the choice of Philadelphia at the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families on June 3.
In response, Archbishop Chaput said he is “so grateful” at the choice and “excited” that Philadelphia will host the event.
"It's fitting that this gathering, which celebrates the cornerstone of society, will take place in America's cradle of freedom. The Holy Father's choice is a gift to the local Church in Philadelphia and to the whole nation,” he said.
The Philadelphia archdiocese has about 1.5 million Catholics in a population of 4 million people.