In the same city where the Founding Fathers first declared independence, the catholic church will hold its first World Meeting of Families celebration on American soil, which likely includes a visit from the next pope.
The eighth installment of the family celebration, which is known to draw hundreds of thousands of religious and non-religious from around the globe, will run from September 22 to 27 in 2015.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said he isn’t sure why Philadelphia was chosen as the first North American destination to hold the event. “His holiness didn’t tell me,” Chaput deadpanned.
But he said it’s important to consider the ideals of human rights, human freedom and human dignity that were essential in the country’s founding documents written here. The city was built on religious tolerance.
“Philadelphia is also an American Catholic icon, with two great American saints - Mother Katharine Drexel and Bishop John Neumann,” he said.
- PHOTOS: What's Brewing in Steamy Hallows, the Harry Potter-Inspired Cafe19 Pictures
- PHOTOS: Frida Kahlo at the Brooklyn Museum doesn't hold back23 Pictures
Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned earlier this month, named Philadelphia as the next host of the 5-day celebration and said he would be in attendance. Benedict’s last day is Friday, and his successor is supposed to be named by April.
Chaput said he “can’t imagine” that the next pope wouldn’t attend.
The celebration occurs once every three years. While the total cost of the event is still unclear, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is tasked with raising the needed funds.
“Everybody knows that we’re having struggles here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with our ordinary financial obligations, so I’m expecting to raise this money from outside sources as well as local gifts,” Chaput said.
The diocese has been in talks with the Convention Center and other venues regarding possible locations for the festivities.
Mayor Michael Nutter called the family meeting the largest event the city has ever hosted.
“We are more than prepared to logistically handle something like this,” he said.
Cara Schneider, spokeswoman for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation said this is an event open to every citizen.
"The door is open, and not just for Catholics," she said.
By the numbers:
In 2012, the World Meeting of Families in Milan cost an estimated $10 million Euros, Chaput said. While the church isn’t sure what the event will cost, in American dollars, $10 million equals about $8 million, according to Yahoo! Finance.
• The last time a pope visited Philly was in the fall of 1979 when Pope John Paul II held an outdoor Mass along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. About 1 million people were estimated to have attended.
• World Meeting of Families was instituted in 1992. It was the brainchild of John Paul II. The event offers insight and teachings on family, marriage, children, divorce, and religious life.
• The last World Meeting of Families, held in Milan in 2012, drew hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world.
Since the Pope won’t spill the beans, let’s speculate.
- “We are family,” made famous by Philly quartet Sister Sledge, would make for the perfect theme song.
- A diverse taste of home is available at the Italian Market.
- Citizens Bank Park has a wide selection of hats the soon-to-be former pope can choose from for a replacement. He'll need a replacement.
Bascilica head: visit will kick off new era
Monsignor Arthur Rodgers, head of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, said he hopes that his church would be included in the celebration.
“The Basilica really is the central liturgical spot for the Archdiocese, so certainly perhaps masses or prayer services or such would be held here,” he said.
In regards to why Benedict chose the city, he’s biased. “I think that if he was going to select a city he made an excellent choice, having been born and bread in Philadelphia I must admit there’s a prejudice there.”
Rodgers said the celebration offers the next pope an opportunity to address the state of the Catholic Church.
“His visit will in a sense kick off a whole new era within the catholic church.”
And it starts in Philadelphia.
“That’s it,” he said.