FEBRUARY 25, 2013
We received some news a few weeks ago that we can share with you today. As announced by the Vatican early this morning, Philadelphia has been confirmed by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, as the host city for the Eighth World Meeting of Families. The official dates set for this gathering are September 22 - September 27, 2015. This marks the first time an American city has hosted the World Meeting of Families and we're deeply grateful that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been selected for this honor.
Before I saying anything else, I want to thank the Holy Father for choosing Philadelphia and for setting these dates before he concludes his ministry as pastor of the universal Church. The Holy Father recognizes that gatherings of this magnitude demand a great deal of planning and work so he set the date before his leaving. They draw many thousands of people - in this case, many thousands of families with children of all ages. But these events also become moments of grace. They have 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 World Meeting of Families is meant to be a gift not just to Catholics in Philadelphia, but to every person of good will in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas. Everyone with a generous heart is welcome to be a part of it, and I'll be working closely with my brother bishops in the months ahead to encourage families across the United States and Canada and around the world to come to Philadelphia in September 2015.
I'll also be working closely with two public leaders who represent our City and our Commonwealth with distinction. It's my pleasure to announce that Governor Tom Corbett and Mayor Michael Nutter have kindly accepted my invitation to serve as the Honorary Co-Chairs of the 2015 World Meeting of Families. Philadelphia's Catholic community is very, very grateful for their support. I look forward to traveling with both the Governor and the Mayor to Rome in the next several months, after the election of the new Pope, for briefing sessions with the Pontifical Council for The Family. I'm also very pleased that Mayor Nutter could be with us today despite his very busy schedule.
I've been asked why the Holy Father picked Philadelphia. Some of you may have asked that question. The answer is simple. His Holiness didn't tell me, so I don't know. But it's helpful to remember that Philadelphia is uniquely rich in America's history. It's where 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. Pope Benedict has spoken about all these issues, especially religious liberty, many times throughout his pontificate. And he's always seen the strength of the family as a guarantee of human maturity and freedom. The more we encourage and support the integrity of families, the healthier society becomes.
Philadelphia is also an American Catholic icon, with 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 service continues right now, today, in all our Catholic social ministries. We're very proud of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia.
The Church in Philadelphia is also 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.
Beyond this important duty, 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.
I think faithful Catholics in Philadelphia and everywhere else know that. And they 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. That's why - 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.
I'm happy to answer questions in a bit, but now I'd now like to introduce the Mayor of our wonderful City of Philadelphia and an Honorary Co-Chair of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, Michael Nutter.