NBC10.com - Matt Delucia
The Philadelphia papal delegation met Pope Francis while in Rome in hopes of persuading him to visit the city next year. If the pontiff comes there is plenty of planning needed.
Philadelphia delegates who've been in Rome anticipating a face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis Wednesday, were told late Tuesday that the meeting would no longer be private but that doesn't mean they are upset with the change.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and other delegates boarded vans Wednesday to make their way over to the Vatican where they will meet Pope Francis to try and sway to pontiff to attend next year's World Meeting of Families in Philly.
The private meeting with Pope Francis was initially scheduled for inside the pope's residence. But last night, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, communicated to the Philly delegation that instead of inside, the morning audience with the Pope would be held outside instead.
Another media outlet reported that this change in schedule was seen as a disappointment or a snub to Philadelphia but we have been told by multiple people on the team this morning, unconditionally, that that is not true.
Nutter said at the post-audience meeting was actually the Pope's idea -- that Pope Francis was made to understand a large Philadelphia media contingent was in Italy and felt it was better to move the meetings into public view.
According to a source who has first-hand knowledge of the scheduling change, but is not authorized to speak publicly about the Pope's schedule, Archbishop Paglia may have wanted the Philadelphia delegation's face-to-face time with Pope Francis to be very public. No media was going to be allowed inside the private audience and now media will be able to capture the moment.
Delegation said they were thrilled with how it went. That it was actually better with thousands of people behind them, saying it still felt "like you were the only person in the room" when they were with him.
The Philadelphia delegation sat up in a front row for the traditional Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square, which attracts tens of thousands of people. At the end of the service, after the Holy See addressed the people and gave his blessing, each delegate was introduced to Pope Francis to share any thoughts and or gifts.
Nutter, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Archbishop Charles Chaput and the other delegates NBC10 talked to as they left for Saint Peter's Square, were excited and some a little nervous knowing the highlight of the trip -- that face-to-face with Pope Francis -- was just a couple of hours away.
As the Pope arrived, Nutter captured the moment on his Twitter feed.
His Holiness Pope Francis arriving at St Peter's Square. An incredible honor to see him with our delegation. pic.twitter.com/PaopPKfKpv
— Michael A. Nutter (@Michael_Nutter) March 26, 2014
Nutter and the other leaders got their chance to meet the Pope and they gave him a special gift.
— Karen Araiza (@KAraiza) March 26, 2014
When Philadelphia hosts the 2015 World Meeting of Families, up to two million people may attend if Francis is there.