By Mark Abrams and Oren Liebermann
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Pope Benedict XVI is planning to come to Philadelphia in 2015 for a world families conference.
The pope made the announcement Sunday at the close of a similar event in Milan.
Archbishop Charles Chaput, the head of the Philadelphia archdiocese, made an unscheduled overseas trip to receive the news directly from the pope that he had selected Philadelphia as the first American city to be the stage for the event which is held by the church every three years.
Archbishop Chaput released a statement saying:
“I’m to grateful to the Holy Father that he has chosen Philadelphia…It’s fitting that this gathering, which celebrates the cornerstone of society, will take place in America’s cradle of freedom.
Rocco Palmo is a Catholic journalist based in Philadelphia. He says the pope’s decision sends a message to the church in Philadelphia.
“I think it’s encouragement to the church here. They know what’s going on with the trial, with the closings of the schools, with the financial difficulties of the archdiocese and it’s a way of saying from the pope himself: ‘Take heart, keep your heads high.’ And, you know the whole church is going to come to Philly as a sign of support and solidarity.”
Father Dennis Gill says the Archdiocese is thrilled to have a visit from the Pope.
“It’s a wonderful occasion for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for the city of Philadelphia, for the church of the United States, for the United State,” said Father Gill.
Pope John Paul II, who commissioned the World Families event some years ago, was the last pope to visit Philadelphia in 1979. A million people attended a Mass he celebrated on the Ben Franklin Parkway.