Philadelphia to Host World Meeting of Families in September, 2015
by David Gibson
Will the church’s soon-to-be-elected new pope pay a visit to the United States during autumn’s first days in 2015? Many are hoping and even predicting that the eighth World Meeting of Families will lead him to Philadelphia at that time.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia confirmed during a Feb. 25 news conference that the world meeting will take place in that city Sept. 22-27, 2015. Pope Benedict XVI earlier announced Philadelphia as the event’s site during the Mass concluding the June 2012 world meeting in Milan, Italy.
A World Meeting of Families has “the power to transform, in deeply positive ways, not just the spirit of Catholic life in our region, but the whole public community. We’re excited to officially begin this journey,” the archbishop said.
He described the upcoming meeting as “a gift not just to Catholics in Philadelphia.” In fact, he said, “everyone with a generous heart is welcome to be a part of it.”
Pope Benedict always viewed “the strength of the family as a guarantee of human maturity and freedom,” Archbishop Chaput pointed out. He added, “The more we encourage and support the integrity of families, the healthier society becomes.”
A World Meeting of Families has taken place every three years since 1994, when Rome hosted the first of these gatherings, established by Pope John Paul II. But no U.S. city previously has hosted the world meeting.
Mexico City hosted the 2009 meeting. The others – in addition to Milan in 2012, and Rome in 1994 – took place in Valencia, Spain (2006), Manila, Philippines (2003), Rome (2000) and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1997).
The Pontifical Council for the Family sponsors the meetings. It is expected that the Philadelphia meeting will attract tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of participants from throughout North America and the world.
Already a meeting website has been established (www.worldmeeting2015.org). It invites site visitors to check back often for additional information on registering for the meeting, accommodations and other background materials.
The Family’s Challenging Vocation
Each World Meeting of Families, through a chosen theme, emphasizes the good news of the family and highlights its intrinsic value to society, Archbishop Chaput said.
He explained that an event “of this magnitude” demands a great deal of planning and work,” which is why Pope Benedict “set the date before” his resignation took effect.
The main events at each World Meeting include an international theological congress, a vigil and a closing Mass. During the vigil, called an Evening of Witness, couples and families from around the world share testimonies on marriage and family life, and ask questions of the pope, if he is in attendance. The concluding Mass on Sunday can attract upwards of one million people.
In his homily at the Mass in Milan, the pope told families their “vocation is not easy to live, especially today.” But, he said, “the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the cosmos, the world.”
Families, said the pope, should be certain that insofar as they live their “love for each other and for all with the help of God’s grace,” they will “become a living Gospel, a true domestic church.”
The 2012 meeting’s theme, “Work and Celebration,” invited participants to reflect profoundly on the relationship between workplace demands and their family life and leisure.
Ways to better balance work and home life, and to foster understanding of family needs in the workplace were among the meeting’s goals. A concern addressed was that life’s moments of celebration, including Sundays, not be crowded out by workplace pressures.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia Archdiocese said the theme for the 2015 Philadelphia meeting has not yet been determined. Its choice awaits a new pope’s election, it was indicated.
Archbishop Chaput did not know why Pope Benedict chose Philadelphia for this event. “His Holiness didn’t tell me, so I don’t know,” he said. But during his press conference he told reporters it is “helpful to remember that Philadelphia is uniquely rich in America’s history.”
It was in Philadelphia that “the United States began as a nation, and the political ideals conceived in Philadelphia have served human rights, human freedom and human dignity for more than two centuries,” the archbishop commented. He said Pope Benedict “has spoken about all these issues, especially religious liberty, many times.”
Archbishop Chaput also called Philadelphia “an American Catholic icon,” noting its “two great American saints, Mother Katharine Drexel and Bishop John Neumann, a great church legacy of Catholic education and many decades of service to immigrants, minorities, the hungry and the poor.”
That kind of service continues “in all our Catholic social ministries,” and we’re very proud of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, he said.
The church in Philadelphia also is “a community in need of healing and renewal. 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,” the archbishop told reporters.
Beyond that “important duty,” he said the church “still has the obligation to preach Jesus Christ. She still has the duty to help people find God and to live their faith with joy and conviction.”
Archbishop Chaput thinks Catholics in Philadelphia and everywhere “long for a chance 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.”
Because of that, “with the help of God, and if we’re faithful to the tasks this great effort requires, the World Meeting of Families in 2015 will achieve everything it needs to accomplish and everything God intends,” he said.
About the author
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.