By Mark Abrams
ROME, Italy (CBS) — The Philadelphia delegation that went to Rome this week with a mission to convince Pope Francis to visit Philadelphia for a World Families Conference in the fall of 2015 is ecstatic after their face-to-face meeting with the pontiff in front of 100,000 pilgrims today on St. Peter’s Square.
It was supposed to be a private meeting, but it became very public last night as Pope Francis decided he wanted to receive the high-level delegation during his weekly public audience today (see related story).
Gov. Tom Corbett says meeting with the pope was exhilarating, and he is confident their six-minute interaction will pay big dividends.
“We got a lot of very good smiles from him,” Corbett said afterward. “His English is much better, probably, than my Spanish. But he likes Philadelphia. He smiled about Philadelphia. And I feel — and the mayor feels — very, very optimistic that we’ll see him in September of 2015.”
Mayor Michael Nutter says the papal team from Philadelphia is overwhelmed by a great sense of joy and appreciation.
“This was a tremendously successful mission and visit to the Vatican, and it could not have gone better,” Nutter said.
The delegation returns to Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon, hours after the pope meets one-on-one with President Obama, who is expected to offer a formal invitation to him to visit the US next year.