Pope Coming to Philadelphia, Delmarva Catholics Excited - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Pope Coming to Philadelphia, Delmarva Catholics Excited

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SMYRNA, Del. (WBOC) - "The Pope is coming to Philadelphia," Michael Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia, told a crowd to cheers Monday morning.

There have been months of speculation that Pope Francis would be coming to Philadelphia at the end of September. He'll be there for the World Meeting of Families. The major event is Sept. 22-27. It was already expected to draw huge crowds to the region.

The pontiff is expected to participate in the conference's closing events and celebrate a mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He is also expected to visit New York and Washington DC. But Vatican officials would not confirm those legs of the trip.

There's obviously a lot of excitement in the Catholic community about this announcement. The Diocese of Wilmington, which includes all of Delmarva, has about 230,000 Catholics. And many, many of them will be in Philadelphia for Pope Crancis's visit.

"It is electrifying. It is exciting," said St. Polycarp Parish's Fr. Thomas Flowers.

A lot of American Catholics had been hoping Pope Francis would come to the US for the World Meeting of Families.

"Fingers crossed. Hands folded," Flowers said.

Flowers says he's very excited about the Pope being in the region so soon, so close.

"That closeness, the physical closeness, to the Pontiff gives you a sense of belonging to the church in a way you just don't have when you come to Sunday Mass. You are in the presence of the man who is the successor to Peter."

His parishioners are excited, too.

"I would like to see a bus from this church go up and take as many people as it can," said Vicky Bleyer.

Lots of Catholics are looking forward to a visit from Pope Francis.

"We've not seen him before, the first time for him coming to the US will be great," Constance Ajah said.

"It's a big deal to me," said Francis Urick. "Because he's coming to the United States and close to us."

It's a big deal for non-Catholics as well.

"It really excites me to have him come and bless us with his presence," Dawn Ginyard said.

Flowers was in Philadelphia the last time a Pope visited. That was John Paul II in 1979. He gave a mass for as many as one million people in Center City Philadelphia. That's something Pope Francis is expected to do, too, though attendance could reach two million for that.

"When you have an experience like that," said Flowers. "You keep pinching yourself. You know it in your head. But here's the reality. Here's the Pope."

This will be only the tenth time a Pope has visited the United States. The first visit was in 1965.

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