Pope John Paul II is expected to pay a second visit to this country, probably in September or October of 1987, spending eight days largely in the West and the South to complement his 1979 visit to the East Coast and the Midwest.
Bishop James W. Malone of Youngstown, Ohio, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in announcing the projected visit, "I am deeply grateful that the Holy Father has expressed a desire to return to our country. We look forward to receiving him again with joy and affection."
The pontiff expressed a desire during his 1979 visit to see other parts of the country. He had twice visited centers of Polish populations on the East Coast and in Michigan before his election as pope.
The U.S. bishops issued the invitation to return, said Msgr. Daniel Hoye, general secretary of the bishops' conference. Although dates are not yet final, the conference is beginning plans for the visit.
The pope's seven-day visit in 1979, the second foreign tour of his then year-old papacy, created a sensation throughout the country even though his itinerary was limited to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, with a side trip to rural Iowa worked into the schedule at the last minute.
Millions lined the routes of his motorcades and millions more gathered for public masses.
But developments in the church and society at large since 1979 raise questions about whether the adulation of six years ago may be replaced in some areas by the kind of protests that erupted in Holland earlier this year during a papal visit there.
As American Catholicism has become more progressive in implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council 25 years ago, the Polish-born pontiff has sought increasingly to enforce a traditional orthodoxy here.
"He looks on America as a decadent society," said Eugene Kennedy, a former priest who teaches psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and who has written extensively about the state of American Catholicism. "He looks on us as a sort of upstart childish nation that needs correction," Kennedy said.
Since the pope's last visit there have been several Vatican actions that troubled progressive American Catholics. Most troubling has been the stifling of dissent. A popular catechism, widely used for more than a decade, has been banned. Bishops and theologians have been formally investigated. Theological seminaries and religious orders of men and women are being scrutinized.
Appointments to theological faculties at American Catholic universities have been held hostage to Vatican approval. And the pope himself four years ago lectured a group of American bishops during an official visit to Rome on the need to tighten up church discipline in this country.