Good morning, and welcome to our special guests including Governor Corbett and Mayor Nutter.
Most of all I am honored and pleased to welcome to Philadelphia his excellency, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Monsignor Carlos Simone Vasquez of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and Father Andrea Ciucci of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Our visitors from Rome arrived last night with much business ahead of them in the United States, but we are very happy that a site visit of Philadelphia, in advance of the World Meeting of Families in September 2015 is a first and important part of their American travels.
I also want to welcome Archbishop Stefan Soroka to today’s event. The Archbishop is the Metropolitan Archbishop for all Ukrainian Catholics in the United States and a very good personal friend. All of us join him in praying for the situation in Ukraine today. We ask the good Lord to give those good people peace. So, Archbishop, we’re happy to have you join us today.
I also want to acknowledge and welcome home someone who is integral to our planning for this global event, Father Bill Donovan. Father Bill, if you will stand up. Father Bill is a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and is our liaison to the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome. He’s done a great job in that role and we’re happy to see him back home for a visit to his seminary family and his family in Delaware County. So, welcome home, Father.
And we’re grateful that all of you are able to be with us today.
When we first realized that Archbishop Paglia’s visit to Philadelphia would occur near the time that we planned to share the theme for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, it seemed only appropriate that we ask him to be part of this moment. Each World Meeting of Families has a theme from which all content and programming flows. Key note addresses, breakout sessions, and panels are developed on a wide variety of topics that all connect back to the central theme. In Milan in 2012 the theme of the world meeting was “The Family: Work and Celebration”.
As we began to discuss what the theme in Philadelphia would be, we took inspiration from this place, its history and its spirit. As many of you know from our history books, William Penn founded this colony as a holy experiment-an example to the nations. His Charter of Privileges guaranteed religious freedom to all. Pennsylvania welcomed Quakers, Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Mennonites and dozens of other congregations as well as Catholics and Jews. Colonial Philadelphia was a blueprint for democracy. It was founded upon liberty and tolerance. Surely there were tensions that arose as customs and languages weren’t necessarily shared, but as we know Philadelphians, even today, strive to find what unites rather than divides us. We specially chose this place, which overlooks Independence Mall for the announcement of our theme today because it is a beautiful reflection of why Philadelphia will be an extraordinary host to the World Meeting of Families, and hopefully, a place to welcome Pope Francis.
Independence Hall is one of the greatest markers of religious tolerance and freedom in the world. And the spirit of tolerance and freedom that William Penn established here and all that came after is rooted in love. To help us unveil the theme for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, I’m honored to introduce Christopher Bannon, and Isabella Fontanez. Christopher is an eighth grader as St. Francis Xavier Catholic School at 24th and Fairmount and his sister Isabella is a 5th grader there. What better way to share our theme than to have family members representing our wonderful Catholic schools here with us today. We’re so glad you’re with us, thank you. Please come forward.
Ladies and gentleman, the theme for the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 is, “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” These words were inspired by the words of the early Church Father Saint Irenaeus of Lyons who said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” In like manner, the glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves and no better means exist to teach the meaning of love than the family. These words were also inspired by his Holiness, Pope Francis, who embodies the message of mercy, joy and love that lies at the heart of the Gospel. His compassion for the genuine needs of people and his deep care for the institution of the family are very much part of this scene as well. Irenaeus reminds each of us that love should be our life’s mission and that it’s the engine of life.
So we’re excited to see how this theme will inspire all that will happen during the week of September 22-27, 2015. Now, I would like to introduce our partner in planning this global event, Archbishop Paglia. As mentioned earlier, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia is President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which is the organization that helps the Holy Father deal with family issues in the Church and in the world. And he helps to guide the mission and planning for the World Meetings of Families throughout the world. He’s visiting us from Rome to tour sites in the city, engage in several planning meetings with our leadership, and also to visit with some of our Catholic school students who share in our enthusiasm for this event and for the probable visit of Pope Francis.
We have already shown him the Liberty Bell, the real one, and Independence Hall. Now we welcome him to share a few words on his visit, on our theme and on the planning for the World Meeting of Families 2015. Please welcome, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.
Editor’s Note: Beginning with 1994, The Year of the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Family has been responsible for organizing the World Meetings of Families in Rome (1994); Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); and now, Philadelphia (2015). Since its inception by Saint John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families has sought to strengthen the sacred bonds of family across the globe.
For video of today’s event and more information regarding the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015, please visit www.WorldMeeting2015.org.
Kenneth A. Gavin
Director of Communications