Just days before arriving in the United States for the first time, Pope Francis did something he doesn’t do very often: he spoke in English.
The pope recorded a short video greeting, released on Sunday by the World Meeting of Families, welcoming all those planning to trek to Philadelphia to see him next weekend.
“I look forward to greeting the pilgrims and the people of Philadelphia when I come for the World Meeting of Families,” Pope Francis said. “I will be there because you will be there! See you in Philadelphia!”
Philadelphia is the last stop on Pope Francis’s three-city visit to the U.S.: he arrives Tuesday night in Washington D.C., heads to New York on Thursday evening, and then arrives in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Pope Francis will give the majority of speeches in Spanish during his U.S. trip, Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday. Francis, from Argentina, has a limited English-speaking ability and prefers to communicate in his native language.
The pope’s arrival in Philadelphia will coincide with the closing days of the the World Meeting of Families, an international conference that, organizers say, currently has more than 17,000 registered participants.
The pope will lead the closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families on Sunday night. That spectacle – on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the center of city – could attract a crowd in the millions.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said in a statement that Francis’s video message was “deeply moving,” and hoped that “all who hear his words will allow them to touch their hearts and be compelled to join in this moment of grace, love and community.”
He added: “Simply put, this moment will not come again.”
The multi-day visit has prompted one of the largest security operations in U.S. history, as The Washington Post previously reported.
Particularly in Philadelphia, the security plan for Francis’s arrival is immense, involving the closure of highways and bridges, expansive restrictions on public transportation offerings, and the establishment a three-square-mile security perimeter free of incoming car traffic. World Meeting of Families organizers prefer to refer to the security perimeter as the “Francis Festival Grounds.”
Francis’s message to Philadelphians and those traveling to the city will underscore a similar rebranding effort by organizers to emphasize the excitement of a papal visit over the significant logistical headaches it will cause for many of the city’s residents.
In late August, the city and the World Meeting of Families announced an “I’ll Be There” campaign, in part to encourage Philadelphia’s business owners to consider remaining open for the duration of Pope Francis’s visit.
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