Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput says the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September has the power to re-energize his city and to help families around the world.
In an interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Chaput spoke on his hopes for the Pope’s visit to his city. The Holy Father is making his first Apostolic Visit to the United States from September 22-27, specifically for the occasion. Before arriving in Philadelphia, Francis will go to Washington where he will meet the President, address Congress, and canonize Fra Junipero Serra. He will then go to New York, where he will address the United Nations before making his final stop in the “City of Brotherly Love”.
Archbishop Chaput also reflects on how Pope Francis has followed in continuity with his predecessors in addressing the family, and noted how it’s ‘divine providence’ that this meeting falls where and when it does, just one month before the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family. He also responded to how those who cannot personally be present can still hear of the good news of the meeting.
Philadelphia’s archbishop was in Rome at a press conference held at the Holy See Press Office on the World Meeting of Families. Along with the American prelate, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre and Jerry and Lucille Francesco, a couple from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, presented the meeting’s details and spoke on the significance of the Holy Father’s presence.
In 1994, in response to the need of families everywhere, Saint John Paul II asked the Pontifical Council for the Family to organize the first World Meeting of Families. That year, its first meeting was held in Rome. Since then, the others have been held every three years, starting in Rio de Janeiro in 1997, then Rome, Manila, Valencia, Mexico City, and Milan in 2012.
ZENIT: What does Pope Francis’ participation at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia mean to you? What are your hopes for it, especially in light of the fact that the Holy Father highlighted how he was visiting the United States to be at the meeting?
Archbishop Chaput: Well, Philadelphia has had some rough times lately. We have had difficulties with areas of the sexual abuse crisis in the United States. Also, we have had to merge parishes and close schools and downsize a lot. And I see the World Meeting of Families as being a great moment for the Church in Philadelphia to kind of ‘regroup,’ once again start doing positive things, rather than doing diminishing sorts of things. And the visit of the Holy Father will serve to re-energize that and give us a lot of self-confidence. I think it will be extraordinarily important for Philadelphia.
Now, in terms of the broader picture, the country–the United States–and the world, it’s also going to have huge significance because there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s going to be a focus on Philadelphia because a large number of requests we have are from international media. So people will be focusing on what happens there. Therefore, we need to make sure that what does happen there is really a positive and generative kind of moment for individuals and families, so that they really improve their own family lives and recommit themselves to a deeper kind of sacrificial love in the service of other family members. That’s my hope and that’s our goal.
ZENIT: Some point out the observable link between the participation of numerous families in the World Congress of Families in Philadelphia in September and the gathering of the world’s bishops and Church leaders at the Synod of Bishops on the Family in the Vatican in the next month. What is your view about the link between the two events dedicated to the family?
Archbishop Chaput: There is not much time between the World Meeting of Families and the Synod for it to be digested and then be passed on. I think it will be more impressions. Or maybe the broad topics and conversation will find their way into the synod. But the closeness in time prevents it from being a thoughtful distillation of what happens there and passing it on to the Synod Fathers. But God’s providence is taking place where it is and when it is. It was set up before the Synod was announced. So we trust that God’s providence will bring the two together somehow.
ZENIT: Pope John Paul II instituted the World Meeting for the Families in 1994. With regard to the focus on the family, could you speak on continuity you see between starting from the pontificate of Saint John Paul II to Francis, and how issues facing the family now versus then have changed?
Archbishop Chaput: Well, you know, I think Pope John Paul II found a great usefulness in World Youth Days, and seeing that family is essential for everything in our lives, he thought he would try to do the same thing for families what World Youth Day did for youth. In the United States, there hasn’t been a lot of interest in the World Meeting of Families. I was at the last one in Milan. There were very few Americans there. So I am hoping this event in the United States could be the beginning of a greater participation on the part of our part of our world in the World Meeting of Families. And if family life was beset by difficulties during the pontificate of John Paul II, it’s even worse now. Therefore, I think there is continuity and it’s a providential blessing that we have these opportunities. And I am very happy that Pope Francis has decided to continue this innovative approach to evangelization of families that was established by Pope John Paul II.
ZENIT: Last question, I was very impressed by how scholarships will be extended so families from around the world, regardless of their financial situation can be present and participate. But how will those who cannot be present be reached?
Archbishop Chaput: We hope people will be able to see it from all parts of the world because of the coverage of so many media outlets. In terms of material that is going to come from here, we are going to be very dependent on the news agencies to share the good news of the event with the rest of the world. I know that the World Meeting of Families’ office here at the Pontifical Council for the Family has developed materials that it makes available to the Church universally. But we have not gotten to the stage of knowing what that’s going to be yet for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
On the NET:
Official Website for World Meeting of Families in 2015: http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/