PHILADELPHIA — While the Archdiocese of Philadelphia insists that it is not an official announcement, Pope Francis stated flatly Monday that he expects to visit Philadelphia in September 2015.
Pope Francis told a news conference aboard his papal plane as he was returning from a South Korea visit that he is considering a three-city U.S. tour next year that would include a trip to New York to address the United Nations, to Washington, D.C., to address Congress and to the international World Meeting of Families gathering in Philadelphia.
“Next year I’d like to go to Philadelphia for the family meeting,” he said when asked about his travel plans for next year. He then added: “I was invited by the president of the United States, by the American parliament [Congress] and the secretary-general of the United Nations. ... So, maybe the three cities together.”
The five-day World Meeting is scheduled to begin Sept. 22, 2015. If the pope says Mass at its close, which is traditional, city officials predict that his presence would draw well in excess of 1 million visitors. Pope Francis has not visited the United States since his election to the pontificate in March 2013.
Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which is hosting the World Meeting in conjunction with the Holy See, cautioned Monday that Pope Francis' latest remarks still do not serve as the Vatican's official confirmation of his intent to attend the World Meeting.
“I’ve corroborated with the Vatican Press Office that his remarks constitute a strong desire on the part of the Holy Father to be here,” Mr. Gavin wrote in an email, “but it is still not an official confirmation,” which is expected about six months ahead of the event.
En route to South Korea last week, Pope Francis had replied “si” when a TV reporter asked if he expected to visit Philadelphia next year. And late last month, Catholic News Service reported that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput had told a gathering of Native Americans in North Dakota that Pope Francis planned to spend several days in Philadelphia. A day later, the Vatican Press Office said the pope was “carefully considering” invitations from several U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, but that there were “no concrete plans” made as yet.
First Published August 18, 2014 12:00 AM