While the Pope’s speeches to Congress and the United Nations have drawn much attention, the upcoming weekend is the main focus of the Holy Father’s trip to the U.S., said the director of the Holy See press office. Pope Francis’ Sept. 26 arrival in Philadelphia marks the last stretch of his nine-day trip, which also included Cuba, Washington, D.C., and New York City. But while Philadelphia is the final part of the trip chronologically, “it was the first in intention,” said Fr. Lombardi at a press conference. “The decision of the Pope to come to America — to the U.S.A. and Cuba — began with the decision to take part in the World Meeting of Families,” he said, emphasizing that while much interest and excitement has surrounded the Pope’s speeches in D.C. and New York, the primary purpose of the papal trip has yet to take place. “This last stage is very important for him,” Fr. Lombardi stressed. An international gathering held every three years to encourage and strengthen families across the globe, this year’s World Meeting of Families has as its theme, “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” The event includes several days of presentations, testimonies, prayer, music, and fellowship. The Holy Father will conclude the event with Mass Sept. 27. Fr. Lombardi noted that Pope Francis himself has repeatedly drawn attention to the World Meeting of Families as the reason for his trip. “In every stage of this trip, the Pope has always recalled the theme of the family. For him it was important that the direction of this trip was toward the World Meeting of Families.” As an example, Fr. Lombardi pointed to the final papal meeting in Cuba, which took place with a group of families at the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba. The Pope spoke about family life and the importance of families. He again highlighted the purpose for his trip shortly after arriving in the United States, when he said at the White House that he intended to “travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.” With these words, the Pope “was short but was very clear” about his intentions, Fr. Lombardi said. The Vatican press officer also noted the references to family in Pope Francis’ address to the U.S. bishops and his remarks to Congress, as well as the comments on the human nature of men and women at the United Nations. After days of building up to the World Meeting of Families, the Holy Father will now deliver comments and celebrate Mass for an expected 1 million people in Philadelphia, Fr. Lombardi said, referring to the upcoming weekend as the “fundamental moment” in the nine-day papal trip.
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