Philadelphia archbishop confident Pope Francis will visit in 2015

Although Pope Francis’ own people aren’t confirming it yet, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said the pontiff has accepted an invitation to visit Philadelphia in September 2015 in what would be his U.S. visit.

The archbishop told a July 24 gathering of Native American Catholics in North Dakota that Francis accepted an invitation to come to Philadelphia Sept. 25-27 to take part in the World Meeting of Families, a triennial international gathering promoting Catholic teachings on the family.

“Pope Francis has told me that he is coming,” Archbishop Chaput told the audience. In a later statement, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia acknowledged there is “no official confirmation by the Vatican” but said his “personal conversations with the Holy Father” formed the basis for his confidence in saying the pope would attend.

A Vatican statement issued Friday said the pope “has shown his willingness to participate” in the Philadelphia gathering but “has yet to launch any concrete plan or program regarding a trip” either to the United States or to Mexico, where a visit is also rumored.

On this end of the commonwealth, Catholic officials are treating the potential visit as unconfirmed until there is “some public announcement,” said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, vicar general for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

He does expect the diocese would have representation at the World Meeting of Families.

The family convention is expecting attendees from 130 foreign countries, organizers have said. Although the sitting pope doesn’t always attend, Pope Benedict XVI presided at a Mass that drew 1 million people in conjunction with the last such gathering in Milan, Italy, in 2012.

This would be the first papal visit to Pennsylvania since 1979, when Pope John Paul II drew massive crowds in his visits to Philadelphia during his inaugural visit to the United States. Like Francis, John Paul was then a newly installed pope and a vigorous presence.

In little more than a year as pope, Francis has drawn wide attention, and largely approval, for reaching out to rank-and-file people, denouncing clerical privilege and calling for the church to be in solidarity with the poor. He has broken new ground with conciliatory gestures toward gays and lesbians even while not suggesting any change in the church's opposition to same-sex marriage.

First Published July 29, 2014 12:00 AM

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