Local News

Chapel Hill couple looking forward to being in presence of Pope

Posted September 22, 2015 5:00 p.m. EDT

— Pope Francis will draw huge crowds across Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City during his six-day trip to the United States.

Joe and Yvette Zaninni, of Chapel Hill, will be among local Catholics who travel north for the weekend.

The Zaninnis, who have been married 47 years and work with young married couples at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, will be in Philadelphia later this week for the World Meeting of Families.

The couple made plans to attend the conference, which blends prayer, religious instruction and faith-themed lectures, months ago, but they had no idea it would coincide with Francis' first trip to America.

Yvette Zaninni said the conference highlights the role of the family.

"The glory of men and women is the capacity to love as God loves," she said. "Nowhere is that love found more intimately than in the family."

With more than 18,000 people signed up, this year's will be the most attended of the eight World Meetings. That's double the registrations for the last World Meeting, in Milan in 2012.

Francis will attend the closing concert, the Festival of Families, on Saturday and celebrate Mass on Sunday. Both events are being held on the city's Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Francis will parade down the parkway's outer lanes before both events.

At the festival, he'll hear families from around the world describe the joys and challenges accompanying their family lives.

Organizers expect more than 500,000 people at the festival and more than a million people at the Mass.

Joe Zanini says he has great admiration for Pope Francis because of how he cares for people and "his caring for those that are hurting, and his wanting to share God's mercy so that we can have a better world."

Joe Zaninni said being at the mass will be a special moment for he and his wife.

"It's not what I can get from him, it's what I can give to him," he said. "In a humble way, it's our presence. Being there with another million and a half people, for us, is realizing that it's a minor sacrifice. The gift of our presence, we think, it important."

People attending the World Meeting of Families are automatically ticketed for an upfront section at both events.