History of Papal Attendance
This September will be the first time the World Meeting of Families takes place in the United States. There have been seven so far: past locations include Italy, Brazil, the Philippines, Spain, and Mexico. The first World Meeting of Families took place in 1994, and they have occurred every three years since then. At each meeting, families gather and discuss topics on the family and pray together, focusing on the theme for that year’s meeting.
Over the years, attendance at the event has increased. In 1994, only about 800 participants met in Rome, Italy, but in 1997, there were 2,500 participants in Brazil, and in 2000, back in Rome, Italy, there were 5,000 participants. This year, event organizers are anticipating well over 1 million people for the 2015 meeting in Philadelphia.
During the past 7 World Meeting of Families, papal attendance has taken various forms. The first three meetings, Pope John Paul II attended and celebrated Mass. In 2003, the fourth meeting, Pope John Paul II did not attend in person, but he was shown live through a TV linkup to the people in the Philippines. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI attended his first World Meeting of Families, which took place in Spain. He celebrated Mass for the attendees. Three years later, in 2009, he did not travel to Mexico, but followed the events closely and spoke twice to participants via satellite communication. Pope Benedict XVI did, however, attend the meeting in Milan, Italy, where he celebrated Mass for 1 million people.
2015 will be the first meeting since Pope Francis was elected. According to Archbishop Chaput, his presence will “electrify the gathering.”