.- The Holy See has announced the dates for the eighth World Meeting of Families, officially confirming that the event will be held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27, 2015.
“The more we encourage and support the integrity of families, the healthier society becomes,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
In a Feb. 25 announcement from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that the next World Meeting of Families will be held in Philadelphia and set the official dates for the 2015 gathering, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of participants from across the globe.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which organizes the meeting, promised support throughout the coming months of planning for the international event.
Started in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families takes place every three years and seeks to support and strengthen families throughout the world.
The event was last hosted in Milan, Italy in 2012. More than one million people gathered for Mass with the Holy Father, and 153 nations were represented.
The Philadelphia meeting will mark the first time that the event will be held in the United States.
“The World Meeting of Families is meant to be a gift not just to Catholics in Philadelphia, but to every person of good will in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and surrounding areas,” Archbishop Chaput said at a Feb. 25 press conference.
He explained that such events “become moments of grace,” with the ability “to transform, in deeply positive ways, not just the spirit of Catholic life in our region, but the whole public community.”
The archbishop thanked Pope Benedict for choosing Philadelphia, while acknowledging that the Holy Father did not explain his reason for picking the city to host the international gathering.
“But it's helpful to remember that Philadelphia is uniquely rich in America’s history,” he explained, calling to mind the important political principles of human rights, freedom and dignity connected with the nation’s birth.
Pope Benedict has spoken about these issues, particularly religious liberty, he observed, adding that the Holy Father has “always seen the strength of the family as a guarantee of human maturity and freedom.”
Philadelphia is also important for the American Church, he continued, pointing to Saints Katharine Drexel and Bishop John Neumann, as well as to the legacy of service that continues to this day through Catholic education and aid to immigrants, minorities and those in need.
“The Church in Philadelphia is also a community in need of healing and renewal,” Archbishop Chaput acknowledged. “We have a very serious duty to help persons who have been hurt in the past to heal, and to better protect children and young people moving forward.”
However, he continued, beyond this critical duty is the Church’s foundational “obligation to preach Jesus Christ” and to aid people in finding God and living out “their faith with joy and conviction.”
Faithful Catholics realize that, the archbishop explained, and they long for an opportunity “to show their love of God and his Church to the world, to deepen God’s presence in their own families, and to share Jesus Christ with a world that urgently needs him.”
The logo for the eighth World Meeting of Families was also unveiled on Feb. 25 – a bell with a cross and five distinct figures, designed to reflect “family unity, the city itself and also, the city’s role as the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States,” according to a statement by the archdiocese.
Archbishop Chaput also announced that Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter will serve as honorary co-chairs of the 2015 gathering.
“Philadelphia is the birthplace of religious freedom,” said Governor Corbett, “and our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are places of both personal faith and civic freedom.”
“But it is our families that grow up in these institutions that are the foundation of that freedom.”
The governor – who is Catholic – quoted Pope John Paul II, saying, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
He noted that faithful families have “played a profound role in building not only Philadelphia but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” which today is a state that is “enriched by our diversity of faiths.”
“This special event is not only an opportunity to welcome families from around the world but an opportunity to celebrate our distinctive religious heritage as a state and a nation,” he said.
Mayor Nutter said that he was “delighted and honored” that Philadelphia had been chosen to host the World Meeting of Families.
“Family is the cornerstone of society and strengthening it serves all of our people in Philadelphia – Catholic and non-Catholic alike,” he stressed.