The Archbishop of Philadelphia, Monsignor Charles J. Chaput, has announced that “Saint John Paul II and Saint Gianna have been chosen as the two worthy Patron Saints to guide all in preparation and participation of this international event as they fully embody the history, mission and theme of the World Meeting of Families 2015.” During the mass of 20 July at the cathedral located in Philadelphia, he made the official announcement of the patrons of the event to be held in the United States: a pontiff saint and a saintly lay woman. He added that, “Saints John Paul II and Gianna had a deep and abiding commitment to strengthening the family and sustaining it with love. This historic event will give thousands from around the globe the opportunity to share in the same commitment of our Patron Saints.” A relic of St. John Paul II’s blood, in liquid state, was presented to the faithful for public veneration on the same day.
Saint John Paul II is inextricably linked to Philadelphia and to the upcoming meeting next year. In 1979 he was the first pontiff to visit the city, presiding at the mass in Logan Circle for almost a million people. 15 years later in 1994, it was he who gave initiative to the first meeting of families, with the objective to promote the family and its sacred bonds. Highlighting in a definitive way this constant activity for the good of that which is the first cell of society, Pope Francis declared that John Paul II was the “Pope of the Family”.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, for her part, was chosen so as to guide the participants to understand the theme of the encounter: “ Love is our mission: the family fully alive.” As a medical doctor and mother of 4 children, Saint Gianna is particularly known for her motherly love, which led her to give her life in sacrifice so that her last child could be born in 1962. She was beatified in 1994 – in the year of the first World Meeting of Families event – and canonized in 2004 by Saint John Paul II. She is the patron of mothers, doctors, and unborn children.