BALTIMORE — Pope Francis is coming to the City of Brotherly Love, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is looking forward to the Holy Father bringing his “energy and Gospel enthusiasm” to next year’s World Meeting of Families.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia already has been busy organizing next year’s World Meeting of Families — where tens of thousands were expected for the event, but close to a million now are expected to converge to join the Holy Father following the Nov. 17 announcement that he will attend the event.
In this interview with the Register’s Washington correspondent, Peter Jesserer Smith, Archbishop Chaput spoke about the impact of Pope Francis’ coming to the U.S., the great opportunity the World Meeting of Families provides the faithful to learn about the “joyful” and “positive” message of the Church’s teaching on family life and how Catholics can make this message real for their own families, parishes and communities.
How did you receive the news that Pope Francis committed to come to the World Meeting of Families, and what will it mean for the event and its impact here?
With great joy for two reasons: It’s good for him to say publicly what he has told me many times privately, so that we can in a more formal way prepare for his arrival in Philadelphia. So it gives us a freedom of action we didn’t have before.
But, also, it’s just wonderful news for the archdiocese and for me personally that he’s going to join us, because he’s a wonderful man and will bring a lot of energy and Gospel enthusiasm for our Church, which is something we very much need these days.
Let’s talk about the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year. Are you excited, and why?
I think it is a great opportunity for Americans to be involved. We haven’t really participated in the World Meeting of Families much. I was at the one in Milan, and there weren’t many Americans participating. But I think it would be really great for them, and we also have wonderful gifts in the United States that we can share with the world. And inviting people from all over the world to come and experience this in the United States will be a blessing for them.
But it’s going to be a truly international meeting. We’re going to learn from people all over the world, from all continents. Additionally, we’ve invited people from different faith traditions. We have some different Jewish speakers; we’ve invited an imam; we even have an atheist who is one of our presenters. The Mormon community is going to teach us some of their techniques of keeping families together. A black Baptist pastor from Philadelphia is going to talk with us about inner-city life and the family.
So it’s going to be a wonderful moment for the whole world to learn about the family and learn from one another about the important values of family life.
How is the World Meeting of Families approaching these issues of family life?
It’s a Catholic gathering, so we’re framing it with the Church’s clear teaching on what family is and what nourishes family life. But we’re doing it in a very contemporary way, in terms of the new media and the sociological studies that have come out about family life. We’re focusing not only on the hot-button issues of human sexuality that are so much in the press here in the United States, but we’re also talking about children with disability, how to handle divorce and about families that are from mixed situations, whether it is divorce, annulment, death of a partner and remarriage and families coming together — we’re dealing with these whole complex issues, too, but in a way that we think is positive and joyful. It’s meant to be a celebration of family life and not a simple amalgamation of all our problems.
Does the World Meeting of Families provide an opportunity for lay Catholics to get their imaginations reinvigorated about the family, and what can they do to evangelize about the meeting at the parish level?
One of the workshops we’re doing is about the parish as the place of nourishing families, where families find safety and security and find other people who embrace family life with great confidence. So we want it to be — as I said earlier — primarily a celebration of family life and not a pity party about how bad things are, even for our own families or the notion of family in the world. We have something significant to say, in a positive way, for the whole world, and we hope to do that.
We know that Pope Francis has a way of attracting the whole world to something, and we’re really hoping for his presence to give renewed energy and enthusiasm to this process.
The Pope’s visit to the World Meeting of Families is coming less than a week before you and other bishops around the world gather for the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Do you see the one benefiting the other, with momentum from the meeting carrying into the synod?
I certainly think, in a lot of background ways, but there’s nothing in the program of the World Meeting of Families that’s specifically focused on the agenda of the synod, although everything we’re about at that meeting is the agenda of the synod at the same time … so it’s not a formal part of the preparation, but it will get the whole Church talking and thinking and working together on the marriage issue, and that will be a great blessing.
When the Pope arrives in Philly, will you treat him to a Philly cheesesteak sandwich?
If he wants one. Everybody who comes to Philadelphia says they want one. So, if he does, he’ll get one. He’ll get the best one.
Rome correspondent Edward Pentin contributed to this report.
2015 World Meeting of Families Prayer
God and Father of us all, in Jesus, your Son and our Savior, you have made us your sons and daughters in the family of the Church.
May your grace and love help our families in every part of the world be united to one another in fidelity to the Gospel.
May the example of the Holy Family, with the aid of your Holy Spirit, guide all families, especially those most troubled, to be homes of communion and prayer and to always seek your truth and live in your love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us!