When Pope Benedict XVI called Archbishop Charles Chaput two years ago to ask him to consider hosting the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, his first thought was to refuse the offer.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese has endured difficult times in recent years — a sexual-abuse scandal that led to the conviction of several priests, as well as parish and school closings, dwindling Mass attendance and an operating deficit reportedly at $17.4 million. An event the magnitude of the World Meeting of Families seemed to the shepherd of Philly’s 1.5 million Catholics the “last thing we needed,” said the archbishop.

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