Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia encouraged prayers for married couples and families on Valentine's Day, also requesting prayers for the upcoming World Meeting of Families.

Recognizing that "Saint Valentine is the patron of happy marriages, engaged couples and young people," the archbishop asked in a Feb. 14 statement that the faithful pray "for married couples as well as all those preparing to enter into the sacred bonds of marriage."

"The married couple is the building block of the family – the cornerstone of society," he observed. "Today is a special time to celebrate the authentic love that a husband and wife experience in the person of Jesus Christ and the greater fulfillment of that love in the creation of a family."

In addition, Archbishop Chaput requested prayers for all those working "to prepare for the World Meeting of Families that will be held here in Philadelphia next year."

"That event has the power to transform, in deeply positive ways, not just the Catholic Church but our entire community," the archbishop said.

The eighth World Meeting of Families will be held Sept. 22-27, 2015, and is expected to draw tens of thousands of participants from around the world.

Begun in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, the gathering 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 1 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.

Archbishop Chaput has previously stated that such events can be "moments of grace" for the entire area, able "to transform, in deeply positive ways, not just the spirit of Catholic life in our region, but the whole public community."

"The more we encourage and support the integrity of families, the healthier society becomes," he said, adding that families play a critical role in sharing the message of Christ with the world.

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter will serve as honorary co-chairs of the 2015 gathering.

Governot Corbett – who is Catholic – noted at a press conference last year that Philadelphia is "the birthplace of religious freedom," with "churches, synagogues, mosques and temples [that] 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," he emphasized, noting that faithful families have "played a profound role in building not only Philadelphia but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."