New pope likely to attend fall '15 meeting in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA -- It will be bigger by far than the Republican National Convention that filled the city in 2000. Exactly how big, no one yet knows.

Mayor Michael Nutter and Archbishop Charles Chaput on Monday formally announced plans for Philadelphia to host World Family Day, a massive Roman Catholic gathering that's expected to bring the next pope to this city in 2015.

It was the first question to Archbishop Chaput at a Monday news conference: Will the pope, due to be chosen in March, come to the city?

"I can't imagine that he won't, but I can't promise that he will," Archbishop Chaput said. "We're going to plan as though he's going to come."

Mr. Nutter pledged that the city would be ready and eager to perform on an international stage.

It will be the first time World Family Day comes to the United States. The once-every-three-years event requires gigantic preparation and fundraising.

Staging the most recent World Family Day in Milan cost about $13.3 million, the archbishop said. He said funding will be sought inside and outside of Philadelphia.

Mr. Nutter said, "I know a little bit about raising money, have been known to pick up the phone."

Archbishop Chaput spoke up, "We're consciously aware of the separation of church and state" -- at which point Mr. Nutter playfully put his hands on the archbishop's shoulders and said, "I wanted to leave that one to you."

On the streets of Philadelphia, Catholics reacted positively to news of the event, even knowing it's three years away.

"There's a lot of work to be done in family life today," said Sister Jean Crane, of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Joe Lomanno, 68, owner of Superior Pasta Co., said he remembered taking his son to see Pope John Paul II in 1979 when his boy was 4 or 5.

"It was a thrill," he said.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who with Mr. Nutter will serve as honorary co-chair of the event, issued a statement saying he was delighted at Philadelphia's selection.

The dates of World Family Day will be Sept. 22-27, 2015.

World Family Day, formally called the World Meeting of Families, was established by John Paul II in 1992 to strengthen the bonds of marriage and family. It includes seminars on religion, marriage, divorce and other topics.

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