A replica of Michelangelo’s famed The Pietà from Rome, a soaring stained glass entrance on Broad Street, and halls draped for religious celebrations are part of the changes in the flexible spaces of the Pennsylvania Convention Center for 2015 World Meeting of Families Philadelphia and the Papal Visit.
More than 4,000 members of the national and international news media will be based within the Convention Center during the largest worldwide congress of Roman Catholics, which is scheduled Tuesday, September 22 through Friday, September 25, as well as during Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday.
“It is an honor to be the host venue chosen for the eighth World Meeting of Families as we welcome more than 30,000 visitors from around the world for this historic meeting and visit of Pope Francis,” said Gregory J. Fox, chairman of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. “Our state-of-the-art facility and our staff are ready to provide everyone a memorable experience during their visit to Philadelphia.”
The U.S. Congress of Catholic Bishops, more than 17,000 World Meeting registrants, 10,000 volunteers, and the news media members will be in the Convention Center through next Monday, September 28. SMG, which manages the Convention Center, and the facility’s four partner trade unions have worked for several weeks on special set ups and exhibits within each of the center’s seven halls and 82 meeting rooms.
“This is a historic occasion that will place Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, in the national spotlight,” said John J. McNichol, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. “The recent expansion of the Center made our ability to host this event possible, as the World Meeting of Families will utilize the full capacity of the Center. We are looking forward to a great event and appreciate the hard work of all of our partners in helping to complete the transformation of our building.”
The Museum of the Bible, with an iconic globe image at its entrance, is open to the public throughout the week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday in Hall G adjacent to the center’s Broad and Race Street entrance. The exhibit, Verbum Domini II: God’s Word Goes Out to the Nations, was originally presented at the Vatican in Rome. The exhibit includes fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a first edition of the King James Bible, and more than 80 artifacts from the Museum of the Bible’s Green Collection. The exhibit is one of the largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts in the world.
Just steps from the entrance to the museum is a sanctioned replica of The Pietà (1498–1499), a work of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti that is housed in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
Two halls have been transformed into a 12,000-seat church with a backdrop of stained glass. Masses and confessions will be offered in the church each morning and the area will serve as a satellite viewing center for the elderly and disabled on Sunday, September 27, during the Pope’s Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Two centrally located halls, filled with more than 500 vendors, are draped in orange, white and green, the colors of the Congress. The marketplace will be open during the Congress for sales of religious artifacts and other items.
In addition to the World Meeting of Families, the Media Center is designated as the official filing center for the Papal Visit as Pope Francis travels from Cuba to New York and Washington before heading to Philadelphia this weekend. The center has more than 800 filing positions, as well as set ups for live interviews and worldwide news feeds.
“This event is monumental for many reasons and our beautiful city and Convention Center will be highlighted in an unprecedented way,” said Jack Ferguson, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) President & CEO. “As thousands of people from more than 100 countries converge here, we are excited to showcase all that Philadelphia has to offer.”