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Union League breakfast lures potential donors for papal visit

With its ornate halls, fine dining and strict dress code, the Union League isn't the type of place you'd associate with Pope Francis and his humble vision for Catholicism.

But it's exactly the type of place needed to lure deep-pocketed supporters for the not-so-humble endeavor of hosting Francis - and an estimated crowd of more than 1 million people - in Philadelphia next year for the World Meeting of Families.

Three weeks after returning from the Vatican to pitch Francis on Philadelphia, organizers of the event pitched 170 wealthy Philadelphians on Francis over breakfast at the private club this morning.

"The world's going to be watching, and this will be our chance to demonstrate what we have here," said Gov. Corbett, an honorary co-chairman of the nonprofit set up to raise money for and plan the triennial Catholic event, which the pope usually attends.

Although Francis hasn't officially committed to the event - and isn't expected to until four to six months before it happens - Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput left little uncertainty that the pope will stop in Philadelphia during his first U.S. trip.

"If he doesn't come, I'll be extraordinarily surprised," Chaput said, adding that he knows it to be the pope's "intention" to come to the meeting.

In fact, the pope's attendance next year was an all-but-assumed fact before the delegation even went to Rome. A main goal of that trip was to drum up support back home and help the fundraising effort - which will need as much help as it can get.

The group hasn't set a fundraising goal yet but is using the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia as a guideline. Organizers raised almost $70 million for that event.

"It's sobering to hear how much it cost to have the Republican Convention here," Chaput told reporters after the breakfast.

He added that if the nonprofit ends up raising more money than is needed, excess contributions will be given to charity.