After Pope Francis officially confirmed that he will visit Philadelphia next fall for the World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said the trip will be a blessing for the event and the world. The Philadelphia archbishop explained that while the Pope had already said privately that he would come, it “gave me great joy” to hear the official announcement. “This way we can prepare more formally with our state and with our Church to welcome the Holy Father,” he told CNA Nov. 17. “We have a concrete expression of his interest and his commitment and I hope to get a broad response from the community in the United States in reaction to this news.” The Holy Father’s visit will come at the end of the World Meeting of Families, a global Catholic event that will be hosted in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27. The event, founded by St. John Paul II in 1994, occurs every three years and is meant to strengthen and encourage families throughout the world. Even before the Pope's announcement, the meeting was expected to draw tens of thousands of people. With the Pope’s visit during the weekend portion of the meeting, Archbishop Chaput said he now expects around 1 million people during that part of the event. “He won’t take part in the conference (portion)… but he is kind of like the icing on the cake,” Archbishop Chaput said, “and I am sure he will be briefed on how the spirit of the meeting was and what we’ve talked about and use those reflections to help the world understand what we are about and what we are celebrating next September.” The World Meeting of Families occurs just one month before the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015, which will continue the conversation on family issues started at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family that took place in October 2014. Archbishop Chaput said he hopes the World Meeting of Families will provide some clarity for the lay faithful on issues of family and marriage. “What we hope to achieve through this meeting is a strengthening of family life,” he said. “Not just in the Catholic Church but also in the world, in so far as we can contribute to others’ clarity of thinking on marriage and most importantly the commitment of husbands and wives to each other for the sake of their children.” People from every continent are coming to the World Meeting of Families, and Archbishop Chaput said he wants the event to be as inclusive as possible. “We even have a scholarship program to help the poor come from different parts of the world because this is supposed to be a meeting of the whole world and not just of people who can afford the travel to the United States,” he said. “We have plans to make this a very inclusive gathering with people from all over. I look forward to being part of that celebration.” More information on the World Meeting of Families can be found on their website: http://www.worldmeeting2015.org.
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