The last time a pope visited Philadelphia, in 1979, Christopher West went with his parents.
This time around, the Quarryville resident is not just attending, but participating as a speaker in the World Meeting of Families breakout session this afternoon.
His talk, "Desiring Infinite Love: Sexuality in the Divine Plan" will be from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. in Grand Ballroom B of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., Philadelphia.
“I’ve been for 20 years a Catholic theologian, teacher, author, and speaker, traveling the world, sharing the church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality,” said West, who is founder and president of The Cor Project, which holds events throughout the country. “ I’ve been to large events like this internationally over the past 20 years, but never to something like this in my own backyard.”
He hasn’t personally met Pope Francis and isn’t counting on it happening this week, but he has written a book titled “Pope Francis to go: Bite-sized morsels from ‘The Joy of the Gospel.’”
West describes the book as an in-depth look at the pope’s teachings through the lens of “the theology of the body,” which has occupied the bulk of his career. That concept is based on the teaching of the late Pope John Paul II.
“Our bodies as male and female tell a divine story of life-giving love,” West said. “They tell the story that God himself wants to marry humanity; the Bible from beginning to end tells this grand story of marriage.”
West, who likes to speak in metaphors, says that in other words the sexual revolution is fast food, and the understanding of Christian sexuality that he grew up with was “a starvation diet, just follow all these rules and repress those desires.”
What theology of the body helped him realize, he said, is that Christianity really offers “an invitation to a banquet, a feast, bread from heaven that really satisfies the hunger of the heart.”
Pope Francis’s message of mercy and compassion fits in with the theology of the body, West said, because “Mercy makes no sense without truth. If theere’s not something we’re doing wrong, there’s no need for mercy.”
If he meets the pope this week, West said, he thinks he would say “Thank you for being a witness to the world of God’s mercy, because I need it above anyone.”