Catholics see signs pope may visit Phila.

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Will Pope Francis visit Philadelphia next year?

That question was sparked by a National Catholic Reporter story Friday that said the pontiff "has expressed an intention" to visit the United States in September 2015.

The reason for his visit would be to attend the World Meeting of Families, a major Catholic event to be held in Philadelphia that Sept. 22 to 27, but could expand to include a trip to New York for an address to the United Nations.

The Vatican does not officially announce papal visits until several months in advance, and the National Catholic Reporter said Vatican sources cautioned that circumstances could change.

But a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said it must plan for a visit by Pope Francis, whether he shows up or not.

"Our planning all along has assumed the presence of the Holy Father. You have to plan that way," said Kenneth A. Gavin, director of communications for the archdiocese.

The World Meeting of Families is a triennial event that attracts hundreds of thousands of Catholics to the host city.

During Pope John Paul II's visit to Philadelphia in 1979, more than a million filled the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to attend Mass.

All 8,500 members of the city's police force were on duty for that historic event.

Pope Francis has emerged as an extremely popular figure for showing a common touch and focusing on the poor, and a visit to Philadelphia by him could generate similar or greater attention.

"The pope has really captured the hearts and minds of people around the world," Mr. Gavin said.

He said that the 2015 Meeting of Families, because of its scale, would be costly and that fundraising was underway.



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