More Than 2 Million Expected to Come to Philly For Pope’s Visit

Pope Francis is expected to close the World Meeting of Families. Organizers say they've already met about half of their $45 million fundraising goal.

More than two million people are expected to visit Philadelphia for the Pope’s visit next September, Mayor Michael Nutter said. The Vatican confirmed early this morning that Pope Francis would attend the World Meeting of Families gathering in Philadelphia.

Organizers have already raised about half of their $45 million fundraising goal for the World Meeting of Families, which runs from September 22nd to the 27th. “We’re going to see as much funding as is possible and as is allowed whether from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania or the federal government,” Nutter said at a press conference on the Pope’s visit. “Certainly the focus is to individuals, foundations and corporations.” Asked where the pope will stay, Nutter said, “Wherever he wants.”

Officials say the pope is expected to be in attendance for the World Meeting of Families closing events. Although the Vatican has not confirmed it, the pope is expected to also stop in New York and Washington, D.C. on the trip.

“We’re doing a lot of planning for the World Meeting of Families, great enthusiasm, but I think that 90 percent of that is based on the fact that the Holy Father is going to join us,” Philadelphia Archbiship Joseph Chaput told The Associated Press. “So for him to say publicly that he’s going to join us will give us a renewed commitment and energy to have the best ever World Meeting of Families that has been celebrated in the church.”

The pope had seriously hinted in recent months that he would attend the 2015 event. “Pope Francis had some visitors,” Nutter said, “and all they said to the Holy Father was, ‘We’re from Philadelphia’ and the Pope said, ‘I’m coming, I’m coming!’” Just this week, 10,000 Philadelphia schoolchildren sent letters to the pope asking him to come to the city.

The press conference ended abruptly when a student in the back fainted. “We need a doctor,” Nutter said. “Is somebody going to call? I don’t have my phone.”