As the host for Pope Francis during his visit to Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families, Philly Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will have a very special privilege.
“I actually get to ride in the Popemobile with him,” Chaput said. “That’s how close I’m gonna be to the situation.”
Chaput shared the news during an interview with NBC10’s Jim Rosenfield.
“I don’t know exactly where I’m going to be seated but they tell me I’m supposed to accompany him in all the venues here in Philadelphia because I’m his host,” he said. “And that’s a great privilege. I’ve never done that before.”
Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia September 26 and September 27 for the highly anticipated World Meeting of Families, which starts on September 22. He will also visit Washington D.C. and New York earlier that week before coming to Philly. It’s his first trip to the United States since becoming head of the church.
“It’s a first for him,” Chaput said. “So we’ll both be experiencing firsts together.”
Chaput hopes to treat Pope Francis to a few other Philly firsts.
"We're gonna have cheesesteak available for him, of course we will," he said. "And maybe water ice and some other things. We'll have some pretzels with mustard. But whether he'll actually eat it? I don't know."
While in Philadelphia, Pope Francis is expected to celebrate an outdoor mass along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for two million citizens and visitors.
“I’ll be standing next to the Pope during the mass,” Chaput said.
The Pope's full itinerary is still up in the air though Chaput hopes he'll be able to attend a mass at the Basilica. Organizers want to avoid having Pope Francis' activities be similar to what he does during his visits to New York and D.C.
Chaput admitted he’s still trying to process just how massive the event will be.
“Almost every day there’s a moment when I’m holding my breath,” Chaput said. “I sleep at night without being disturbed and I generally carry out my schedule without thinking of the World Meeting of Families. But when I do think about the World Meeting of Families, which is daily, sometimes I hold my breath.”
Chaput put the enormity of the event in perspective when he revealed the cost of porta-potties.
“We think more than $1.2 million just for those extra bathrooms we’re bringing in,” he said. “There’s not enough just from Eastern Pennsylvania. We have to import them from other states actually.”
Chaput says so far event organizers have raised $33 million though their goal is $45 million.
“Most of it is for crowd security and also for cleanup,” he said. “Those are very expensive things to do with such a big crowd.”
Security and transportation are at the top of Chaput's list of concerns.
"My biggest worry actually is getting people from here to there in a timely fashion," he said.
The World Meeting of Families, which is held every three years, is the largest Catholic gathering of families in the world. This year’s event will emphasize the impact of the love and life of families on our society.
With this theme in mind, Chaput told NBC10 that all are welcome to the event, including “non-traditional” families.
“If you look at the program carefully you’ll see that we’re giving a lot of attention to the issues that are important in society today,” Chaput said. “But we’re not gonna overemphasize one part of society over another."
"The big controversial issue of our time is the definition of family itself. The Christian community and the Catholic Church specifically have a very clear definition of what the family is. We haven’t changed that and we’re not gonna change it. But we welcome people who don’t agree with us. Everybody’s welcome to this.”