Pope Francis gonna come now.
The Pope confirmed Monday that he will participate in the World Meeting of Families celebration in September 2015. This will be his first visit to the US as the head of the Catholic Church. He will be only the fourth pope to ever visit the US.
While formal plans for the visit won’t be revealed until next spring or summer, said Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director for the World Meeting of Families 2015 fundraising and planning group, Pope Francis is scheduled to cap off the last two days of the five-day event.
He will attend the Festival of Families on Saturday, Sept. 26, in front of the Museum of Art. The stage will be transformed into an alter overnight and he will celebrate papal mass the next day on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Farrell said Monday that roughly two million people are expected to cram into Center City for the Sunday mass.
Mayor Michael Nutter said an extensive security force, which includes agencies from Europe, the Catholic Church, federally and locally.
“This will be a massive undertaking,” Nutter said. “Not just because of the volume of people. … but because of the participants.”
Shortage of beds
With only about 11,000 hotel rooms in the city, Mayor Michael Nutter suggested visitors for the event take the “Friends and family plan” approach to finding a place to stay.
Farrell said her group is working with hotels in Delaware and New Jersey and throughout the region to find shelter for the anticipated influx of visitors.
“We do need more space,” she said.
The planning group is working with a website called Homestay.com which connects families in the region to play host to visitors.
“Because without that we cannot accommodate all of our visitors coming from all over the world,” she said.
The event, which the Catholic Church claims is the largest gathering of Catholic families at one time, will be the first held in the US. The meeting is held every three years. This will be the eighth meeting.
The previous Pope, Benedict XVI, was the last to visit Philadelphia. He held mass for more than one million on the Parkway in 1979.
The event has a budget of $45 million.