PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania delegation’s much-anticipated private meeting with Pope Francis today has been canceled.
The delegation, which included Gov. Tom Corbett, was to meet early today to invite the Pope to Philadelphia in 2015 for a major Catholic conference on families.
But Meg Kane, whose firm helped coordinate the trip to Rome, sent out word at about 11:30 p.m. Rome time that the delegation would not meet with the Pope as planned, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rather, she said, Mr. Corbett, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and other public and corporate leaders and their spouses would be presented to the Pope at today’s public audience in St. Peter’s Square. There, Ms. Kane said, each could present gifts if they have them, and speak “a few words” with the Pope. She did not explain the change in plans.
Today’s meeting was to follow Tuesday’s ceremony at the Vatican, where Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia — president of the Pontifical Council for the Family — formally signed a contract bringing the next Roman Catholic World Meeting of Families conference to the City of Brotherly Love, Sept. 22-27, 2015.
Mr. Corbett, Mr. Nutter, and others in the delegation attended the ceremony.
“It is our deep hope that the World Meeting of Families will be enriched and made more vital by the presence of the Holy Father, whose humility, compassion, and simple eloquence have shown a light of hope around the world,” Mr. Corbett said in a statement.
Archbishop Paglia, in his remarks, did not say whether the Pope would be attending but said the issue of family is a top priority for the Pontiff.
“The Philadelphia meeting will be held at a particularly important time for the church,” he said. “Pope Francis, in fact, has decided to focus all of Catholicism on the subject of the family.”
He cited such actions as Pope Francis’ calling of a synod of bishops in October to talk about modern issues facing the family — a synod for which the Vatican has sought widespread comment ahead of time on such controversial issues as gay marriage, cohabitation, divorce, and remarriage. The proximity of Philadelphia to New York, where the United Nations this year has been undergoing a 20th anniversary assessment of the 1994 International Year of the Family, is “a providential call to religious and civil institutions. ” Archbishop Paglia said.
The conference theme will be “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” Archbishop Paglia said.
Popes have attended five of the seven World Meetings of the Family, but no confirmation of Pope Francis’ participation is expected before next year. Pennsylvania officials are estimating a papal visit would draw 1 million people to Philadelphia and have a $100 million economic impact.
The selection of Philadelphia as the site of the Pope’s inaugural U.S. visit would be a morale boost for a city that has undergone revelations of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“The church in Philadelphia is also very much a community in need of renewal in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis of the past decade,” Archbishop Chaput said. “In that sense, Philadelphia is a snapshot of the Church globally.
The last pope to visit Philadelphia was John Paul II in 1979.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Peter Smith is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.