Mayor Nutter gets a private meeting with the pope (sort of)

Mayor Nutter and Pope Francis, left, embrace during the Papal Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.

In the end, Mayor Nutter got his private meeting with Pope Francis - sort of. 

“There were 100,000 people behind us, but you have your own private moment with the pope. There’s nothing like that,” Nutter said after meeting Francis during the pope’s weekly “general audience” St. Peter’s Square. “When you’re standing there with him, it is like you’re the only person standing there. He’s not trying to rush.”

Nutter, Gov. Corbett and a cadre of local business leaders were special guests at this morning’s event. After the pope’s address, they lined up, presented gifts to the Holy Father and accomplished what they came here to do: personally invite him to Philadelphia next year for the World Meeting of Families.

“I said to him that, ‘We would love to have you, on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania and with [Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput], come to Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “I thanked him for his service to the church and really to the world.”

Nutter, who said he would consult with his mother about what to tell the pontiff, said he made sure to bring her up.

“I of course said, ‘Holy Father, it’s an honor to meet you. Thank you for having us here. On behalf of a million and a half people in Philadelphia - and my mother - I want to invite you to come to Philadelphia,’ ” Nutter recollected afterward. “He asked me to prayer for him. I said, ‘Yes, but I need you to pray for me.’ He said, ‘Yes.’ ”

The group was originally scheduled to have a private meeting with Francis this morning, before the general audience. That meeting was cancelled late last night.

Nutter said that it was the pope’s decision and that it was for the better.

“He ultimately decided actually that he wanted us in the public forum because he also was told that there was a lot of Philadelphia media here. You would not have been able to get any of those shots that you have now with us presenting and talking with the pope” privately, Nutter said. “We are ecstatic about what happened, how it happened. Could not have been better.”

At the general audience, the Pennsylvanians’ comments were translated into Italian for the pope by Father Bill Donovan, who is Chaput’s liaison to the Vatican.