Philadelphia — Officials for the World Meeting of Families this year in Philadelphia announced Friday that $30 million in cash and in-kind donations has been raised to support the four-day event Sept. 22-25, capped by the visit of Pope Francis.
The congress will welcome top speakers and participants, Catholic and non-Catholic, from across the United States and the world to discuss ways of strengthening and supporting families and the challenges they face.
Independence Blue Cross CEO Daniel Hilferty, as co-chair of the Executive Leadership Cabinet of the World Meeting of Families, first revealed the fundraising results in a Feb. 19 speech to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
The $30 million in pledges puts the fundraising effort at 67 percent of the estimated $45 million budget to host the event. Expenses will include security and safety measures, technology, transportation, labor and infrastructure enhancements including telecommunications cabling, and pedestrian-control barriers.
World Meeting planners expect to clarify costs for the event after they receive a formal itinerary from the Vatican of the papal visit, perhaps by the summer.
"Wonderful generosity and great enthusiasm for the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis have defined our initial fundraising efforts," Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said. "From those supporting this event, we have often heard about the fundamental importance of the family in strengthening our communities at-large, and regardless of faith, all have expressed a desire to support the institution of the family, which is the cornerstone of our society.
"There is also great excitement about the visit by Pope Francis and how his presence in Philadelphia next September will bring people of all faiths together in conversation, service and ultimately, love," the archbishop said.
The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the regional economic impact of the congress and the papal visit to be more than $418 million.
The World Meeting of Families is a nonprofit organization operating independent of the Philadelphia archdiocese. Planners expect to release detailed information on the names of donors after the conclusion of the event.
Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the world family gathering is held every three years in a different city. St. John Paul II began the practice in 1994 in Rome. The event seeks to strengthen the bonds of family across the globe and highlight the family's value to the good of society.
This will be the first time the international meeting is being held in the United States and will precede the first visit of Pope Francis to this country. He is also expected to visit New York City and Washington during his trip.