Rome, Italy, Feb 10, 2015 / 08:55 am
With preparations for the World Meeting of Families well underway, Pope Francis has told Archbishop Charles Chaput he hopes his visit will inspire joy and confidence in the Church of Philadelphia.
"He certainly is excited about coming," said the U.S. prelate during a Feb. 5 interview with EWTN News Nightly shortly after meeting with the Pope about plans for the upcoming visit.
"He promised me he'd do his best to move our Church to a more positive, joyful, and confident place than it's been, because the struggles we've had in Philadelphia."
The World Meeting of families, set to run from Sept. 22-27 in Philadelphia with the theme "Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive," will be one of the highlights of Pope Francis' tour of the U.S. – his first since being elected to the papacy in 2013.
It's likely that the "struggles" to which the former archbishop of Denver refers are the difficult history that the church in Philly has suffered in recent decades. Archbishop Chaput was appointed in 2011, less than a decade after it was revealed that two of his predecessors – Cardinal John Krol and Cardinal Anthony Bevilaqua – had been involved in covering up cases of clerical abuse of minors.
As the Philadelphia community prepares to welcome the Holy Father, Archbishop Chaput, who is hosting the meeting, acknowledged the global significance of the visit.
Pope Francis' apostolic journey to the U.S. will include a Washington D.C. where he will address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24. The Holy Father may also go to New York where he would likely visit the United Nations. However, the details of the Pope's journey have yet to be finalized.
Despite these significant stops on the Pope's agenda, the people of the Philadelphia consider the papal visit to their city as the "most important," the archbishop said, "not only (for) the Church of Philadelphia but also to the families of the world."
"What's really important for all of us is what happens for our families," he said.
The World Meeting of Families holds global significance as bishops worldwide prepare to gather for a second Synod in two years dedicated to the needs of the family in modern times.
In his meeting with Pope Francis about the World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Chaput took note of how "very serene" the Holy Father was, and how "very much in control of the facts about what's going on".
"We talked about two things: we talked about the World Meeting of Families, of course, but he also was curious about the life of the church in Philadelphia. So actually we spent more time talking about Philadelphia than we spent about the World Meeting of Families."
While the details of the event still need to be confirmed by the Pope, the Philadelphia prelate said he hopes to have "a pretty definitive answer soon on what exactly he's going to do."
The archbishop recalled his time as archbishop of Denver – he took his post there just a few years after St. John Paul II's 1993 visit for World Youth Day.
"It was amazing what a difference his visit made in the life of the Church," he said. "It made the Church much more evangelical, much more enthusiastic, much more confident about itself."
Looking back to that visit, Archbishop Chaput expressed his hope that the "same gift will be given to the Church of Philadelphia" during Pope Francis' visit, "not only in terms of the enthusiasm of the moment, but the enduring legacy of the graces of a papal visit."