Big news today from Philadelphia! We’ve just learned that Pope Francis has accepted the invitation from Archbishop Charles Chaput to come to Philly in 2015, and to attend the World Meeting of Families. Organized by the Pontifical Council for Families, the World Meeting has as its theme “The Gospel of the Family, Resource of Humanity.” This theme will emphasize the good news of the family and its intrinsic value to the good of society.
Archbishop Chaput made the announcement before his homily July 24, at the Opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo, North Dakota. The World Meeting of Families will be held September 22-27, 2015; and Pope Francis plans to be present Friday through Sunday (September 25-27).
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I’m not really surprised: The World Meeting of Families was, after all, announced by Pope Benedict XVI before his retirement; so it has been generally expected that Francis would honor his predecessor’s commitment. I’m excited, nonetheless, and glad to see it moving forward.
According to Catholic News Service:
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said July 25 Pope Francis has expressed “his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia, and has received invitations to visit other cities as well, which he is considering. Those invitations include New York, the United Nations and Washington.
Some Mexican media have cited government officials saying a September trip to North America also could include stops in Mexico, but Father Lombardi said that at this moment “nothing operational has begun relative to a plan or program for a visit to the United States or Mexico. Keep in mind, there is still more than a year to go before the meeting in Philadelphia.”
This will be the Holy Father’s first trip to America, and there’s a good chance he will make several stops during the tour.
As Father Lombardi reported (above), the Pope has been invited to visit New York, where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited him to address the United Nations, to speak about “his vision for the future of humankind.” At the time of the invitation, the Secretary-General reminded Pope Francis that the Holy See has a Permanent Observer Mission.
And he may visit Washington DC, where he’s been invited by House Speaker John Boehner to address a Joint Session of Congress.
Speaker Boehner, in announcing his invitation to the pope last March, said,
“Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service…. His tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us — the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished, the unborn — has awakened hearts on every continent.”
Speaker Boehner, who is Catholic, said that the pope’s message “challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties.”