Address at USCCB Fall General Assembly
November 10, 2014
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
I’m grateful to Archbishop Kurtz for a few minutes to update you on the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next September 22-27. Each of you received on your chair a packet of information. It outlines the content of the four-day general gathering, and a likely two-day papal visit.
As I’ve noted before, we’re not likely to get an announcement of the Holy Father’s visit until after the turn of the year. But we’ve had many hopeful signs that he does intend to come. We expect somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 attendees for the conference during the week, and more than 1 million for the weekend papal events.
The cost of this kind of gathering is very heavy. We’ll publish our financial data sometime after the first of the year. The good news is that we’ve already raised more than half of what we need, with some very substantial individual and corporate donations in cash and services. We’ve also had wonderful cooperation from city, state and federal authorities. And we’ve had great generosity from the Greater Philadelphia business community. So we’ve made good progress, but we still have a long way to go.
Most of our speakers have already confirmed, so our programming is largely set. You’ll note that each day has multiple keynote talks followed by at least fifteen different breakout sessions on a full spectrum of themes. Keynote speakers include Father Robert Barron, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Professor Helen Alvare, Cardinals Luis Antonio Tagle and Robert Sarah, and others. Simultaneous translation in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian will be available for all keynotes and other events. Other languages will be added as we track registration and see what needs there will be. The evenings will involve a weeklong “family fest” of entertainment events.
The World Meeting of Families will deal with a wide range of family issues where our faith is both needed and tested. These are matters that affect families not only here in the United States but on a global scale. So we want to focus next year not just on the neuralgic sexual issues that seem to dominate the American media, but on things like the family and poverty, the family and addiction, the family and children with disabilities, the loss of a spouse, the effect of divorce and co-parenting, health and wellness as building blocks to preserving the family, creating real intimacy between husband and wife, the challenges of raising children, the role of grandparents, the parish as a support community for families, and similar themes. And we want to involve the whole community in this celebration, which is why we’ve included Jewish, Mormon, Muslim and Protestant presenters on issues that we all share — regardless of confessional divides.
In late October we opened registration with a “soft launch” on our website, and it’s working well. Today, in sharing this information with you, we officially open registration to the world. So please encourage your people and your pastoral staffs to go to worldmeeting2015.org to register and get all the information they need about the event. The site offers many different packages, and we’ve tried to make the process as simple as possible. We’re also offering scholarships to two couples from each diocese in Canada and Mexico, and two scholarships for each Episcopal Conference in Central and South America and the Caribbean, along with two scholarships to twenty-two dioceses in the United States with particular needs. Each couple will receive free roundtrip airfare for two, lodging in Philadelphia, and registration costs.
During my service in Denver I had the privilege of seeing all the good seeds sown by World Youth Day 1993 come to harvest. That one event changed the life of the Church in Colorado fundamentally for the better.
If we give our hearts to this effort, and put our trust in the God who loves us, the World Meeting of Families next year can do the same – not just for the Church in Philadelphia, and not just for the Church in our country. The World Meeting of Families is a moment of grace for Catholics and other people of good will from around the globe. That’s our goal. That’s the reason for our enthusiasm. So I ask you to pray for our work, and do everything you can to encourage your priests and people to join us in Philadelphia next year.