In the name of the Father, a parade of people, close to 2 million, are expected to flock to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families held every three years, and the accompanying visit by Pope Francis.
The pontiff will arrive in Philadelphia on Saturday, Sept. 26. He will deliver a public address at Independence Hall and attend the Festival of Families on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
On Sunday, Sept. 27, the pope will celebrate the closing mass for the World Meeting of Families from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Penn’s Catholic community is enthused and energized for the papal visit, and has been planning for the joyous occasion for many months.
“It’s very exciting,” says Ricardo Simmonds, director of the Penn Newman Center, who is among a large Penn contingent who will be attending the papal events. “I think this pope is a gift because he can communicate very well what is most essential, which is the merciful love of God and the joy of the Gospel.”
Simmonds has participated in previous events featuring Pope Francis, such as World Youth Day in Rio in Brazil in 2013—an event that drew around three-and-a-half million people—and World Youth Day in Spain in 2011.
“What’s really beautiful about these events is you get to see how big and how diverse the church is, and it’s this great experience of unity,” he says.
Senior Andrea Muglia, vice president of the Penn Newman Undergraduate Executive Board, chairs Penn for Pope Francis, a student-led group providing direction to the Penn community for all papal events. The group was founded in January to prepare for the pope’s visit.
“I just really like Pope Francis,” Muglia says. “I think he brings a new energy to the church. I like reading a lot of his writings, and I think he’s really accessible to people who either aren’t Catholic or aren’t really engaged with the faith that they grew up in. I think it’s a really great opportunity to spread a good message.”
The Newman Center and Penn for Pope Francis are hosting a series of events to coincide with the papal visit.
On Friday, Sept. 25, the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture will discuss Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment at noon at the Penn Museum, 3260 South St. The program is open to the general public.
During the evening of Friday, Sept. 25, the Newman Center, located at 3720 Chestnut St., is hosting a Pope Fest that is open to the community. The event begins with a mass at 6 p.m. followed by dinner and music.
On Saturday, Sept. 26, the Newman community is meeting at the Center and walking down to Independence Hall for the pope’s address.
Penn for Pope Francis is hosting a breakfast before the pope’s mass on Sunday, Sept. 27. Attendees will meet and eat, and then walk to the Parkway. Three hundred Newman volunteers will assist with the papal mass on Sunday, which begins at 4 p.m.
All members of the Penn community are invited to join Penn for Pope Francis in attending the papal activities and can sign up online.
Simmonds says there is a “beautiful spiritual connection” between Philadelphia and the visit by Pope Francis to the city.
“His message is of love and this city has love in its name,” Simmonds says. “I think Pope Francis is going to give a great message about love to the world in Philadelphia.”