The real reason Pope Francis is coming to the U.S.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. today at 4 p.m. Eastern. Millions of people will turn out to see him over the next five days, and the Archdiocese of Seattle's pilgrims to the World Meeting of Families are eagerly looking forward to our weekend with him in Philadelphia. 

It's all very exciting, but I admit I've sometimes felt a little out of the loop on the pope's U.S. trip. All the buzz in the media has been about his stops in Washington, D.C., where he'll visit the White House (Sept. 23) and address a joint session of Congress (Sept. 24); and New York, where he'll address the United Nations General Assembly (Sept. 25). In these corridors of power, the pope is expected to talk about some of the hottest buttons in U.S. and international politics, including climate change, poverty and immigration. His words could very well influence the global response to these crucial issues. 

In contrast, the geopolitical implications of the pope's two days in Philadelphia are ... less obvious. It can feel like we're an afterthought, an anticlimax. 

But in reality, Philadelphia is the reason why Pope Francis is coming to the U.S. at all. His whole trip grew out of his desire to attend the World Meeting of Families. And the pope knows that, as important as those big national and intergovernmental institutions might be, the family is where the real action's at. 

"One could say, without exaggeration, that the family is the driving force of the world and of history," Pope Francis has said. The family might not be as flashy as the White House, but it's far more fundamental. 

"Our personality develops in the family, by growing up with our mom and dad, our brothers and sisters, by breathing in the warmth of the home," the pope added. "The family is the place where we receive our name, it is the place of affection, the space of intimacy, where one acquires the art of dialogue and interpersonal communication. In the family the person becomes aware of his or her own dignity and, especially if their upbringing is Christian, each one recognizes the dignity of every single person, in a particular way the sick, the weak and the marginalized."

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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