Pope to meet a group of grandparents, including two Kurdish refugees

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Some 40,000 grandparents from 20 different countries, including two elderly people who have fled Iraqi Kurdistan. The President of the Pontifical Council for the Family Mgr. Vincenzo Paglia, presented the details of the Pope’s meeting with these people on 28 September in St. Peter’s Square. He did so at a press conference on the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (22-27 September 2015). The local bishop, Mgr. Charles Joseph Chaput, explained that it is hoped Francis will attend the event but no official confirmation has been given yet.

“On 28 September the Pope will meet grandparents and the elderly for the first time,” Paglia said at a press conference in the Vatican. “40,000 elderly people and grandparents from 20 countries will be present.” It is worth highlighting that “there will be two elderly Kurdish refugees: they have lost everything, they were forced to flee, this is the absurdity of war,” Paglia said, adding that the two elderly people from Qaraqosh (diocese of Mosul) will greet the Pope and “give voice to the many elderly people who are suffering, especially in conflict zones.” According to the trip schedule, the day will begin at 8:30, with the reading of five Biblical passages on old age. Andrea Bocelli will sing at the start of the event. Between 9:30 and 10:15 there will be a discussion between the Pope and the elderly and the grandparents who will be accompanied by family members. From 10:20 onwards the Pope will concelebrate a mass with 100 elderly priests from various countries around the world. The recitation of the Angelus will take place at 12 noon and Pope Francis will present the elderly with large print versions of Mark’s Gospel. The event can be viewed in live streaming on the Vatican television Centre (CTV) website.

During the press conference, which was moderated by the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Joseph Chaput, gave an update on the preparations for the World Meeting of Families. The prelate presented the catechesis texts written by Christopher Roberts as well as the logo chosen for the event. “A year away from now, we will be about to conclude the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and – we hope – the Holy Father’s visit, Chaput said.” The Pope “expressed his wish” to participate “but no official announcement has been made yet.” An announcement will probably be made “shortly before” the event, given the “surprises that Pope Francis has sprung on us recently, with his forthcoming trips being announced quickly,” the archbishop told journalists. So “we are planning the even under the presumption that the Pope is coming but we don’t know this for sure yet and are happy to wait until an announcement is made.” 10,000-15,000 people are expected to attend the event in Philadelphia. A papal mass could easily attract more than a million people,” Chaput said, drawing attention to the support he received from donors and civil authorities during the recent preparatory phase.

The President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Vincenzo Paglia and the Riley family (Thomas and Barbara Riley with their children Penelope (14) and Vincent (10)) from Philadelphia also spoke at the press conference in the Vatican.

The Philadelphia meeting is linked to the mission of the double Synod - Extraordinary and Ordinary – taking place in October this year and October 2015 respectively. We are proud to accompany bishops and couples participating in the Synod,” said the President of the Vatican dicastery, who spoke of a “virtuous cycle from now until next October, with a series of initiatives that will culminate in the event in Philadelphia.”

Paglia said that the Pontifical Council for the Family (www.familia.va ) will keep the public up to date on the October Synod on its website. In response to a question about whether representatives of the “Manif pour tous” movement – which opposes the legalization of same sex marriage in France – Mgr. Paglia replied: “Everyone is invited; the French Church seems to me to be acting in an intelligent, interesting and exemplary.” “It is involving as many believers, other types of believers and non-believers as possible, in order to protect the family as the bedrock of our society.” As to whether specific or controversial issues such as same-sex couples will be addressed in Philadelphia, Chaput said that “the topic is included in a way; we are going to be discussing many different topics.”

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By Acopo Scaramuzzi