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Thousands to Attend Valentine's Day Event with Pope Francis

valentineA special invitation to engaged couples to spend Valentine's Day at an audience with Pope Francis has garnered such a tremendous response that the event has been moved out of the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall and into St. Peter's Square.

Vatican Radio is reporting that the event, which is called "The Joy of a 'Yes' That's Forever", is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family. Thus far, more than 17,000 couples have responded to the global invitation to spend St. Valentine's Day in Rome with the pope, which has forced the venue to move outdoors.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who is the head of the family council, happens to be a former bishop of Terni which makes him a successor to the original St. Valentine, the third-century prelate who also served as bishop of Terni before his martyrdom on February 14.

Archbishop Paglia celebrated a "Promise Mass" with engaged couples in the town's Basilica of St. Valentine, where the saint's relics are kept, on Sunday.

The Pontifical Council for the Family believes that the number of young people who actually show up for the audience is "unpredictable", but the pope was only too happy to move the event to a larger space to accommodate the unexpectedly large crowd.

Registration, which is mandatory, has been extended to February 12. Young couples from around the world who are preparing for marriage can enroll through the offices for family in their dioceses or through the secretariats of ecclesial movements and lay associations. They can also send a request to to request a spot in the square.

St. Peter's Square will open at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. A one hour period of prayer, reflection and testimonials will be held beginning at 11:00 a.m. The pope is expected to arrive at noon.

The meeting is one of the many initiatives being held in preparation for the third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which was convened by Pope Francis for October, 2014. The theme of the Synod will be "pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization."

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