ROME - The hopes of Mayor Nutter, Gov. Corbett, and about 16 civic leaders to meet in a private audience with Pope Francis appear to have been dashed late Tuesday.
The local delegation had expected an extended private meeting Wednesday at which they would have urged Francis to visit the city when the Philadelphia Archdiocese hosts the Eighth World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored gathering expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the city in 2015.
But Meg Kane, communications coordinator for the much-ballyhooed trip to Rome, sent word out at about 11:30 p.m. Rome time that the delegation would not be meeting with Francis at his residence, as had been long planned.
Rather, she said, the mayor, governor, and other public and corporate leaders and their spouses would be presented to the pope during Wednesday's regularly scheduled public audience in St. Peter's Square. There, Kane said, each would be able to present gifts to Francis if they have them, and speak "a few words" with him.
She did not explain the change in plans. On Monday, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in an interview that it was unclear how much time the delegation would get with the pope.
Chaput said he had been hearing that Francis was exceptionally busy and that he might only have time to greet them in a hall. He noted that President Obama is scheduled to meet in a private audience with the pope on Thursday, and Queen Elizabeth in two weeks.
Because of the late hour, no one from the delegation was available to comment.
In an interview Monday, Corbett said he was anticipating 45 minutes with Francis. He said he hoped to entice him to Philadelphia by describing some of the work of the Catholic Church in the city.
Among these, he said, was Project Home, a nonprofit created by Sister Mary Scullion that has provided housing for hundreds of the city's poor.
The Pennsylvania delegation was scheduled to hold a news conference early Wednesday afternoon to report on what it had anticipated would be the private audience. That conference is still scheduled.
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