Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput announced that Pope Francis accepted an invitation to visit the City of Brotherly Love next year. “Pope Francis has told me that he is coming,” Chaput said at the opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo, N.D., on Thursday, the Catholic News Service reported. The visit, Chaput said, will last three days.
According to Chaput, the pope will be in town for the next World Meeting of Families conference in September 2015. However, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in a statement to The Post that “there has been no official confirmation by the Vatican or The Holy See of Pope Francis’ attendance at the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia,” adding that “Archbishop Chaput has frequently shared his confidence in Pope Francis’ attendance at the World Meeting and his personal conversations with the Holy Father are the foundation for that confidence.”
The Archdiocese said it expects official confirmation about six months prior to the conference and noted that Chaput’s comments “serve to bolster our sincere hope that Philadelphia will welcome Pope Francis next September.”
Chaput’s reported remarks initially appeared to be the first official confirmation of a papal visit, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that.
In any case, this isn’t the first we’ve heard of the pope’s plans to visit the country next year. Yesterday, the National Catholic Reporter wrote that Francis was planning on attending the Philly conference but that the church wasn’t ready to officially announce those plans.
As the NCR notes, it’s possible that Francis won’t limit his 2015 trip to just one American city, especially since his timing would roughly coincide with the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York. It could be awhile before we get more details on his plans.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNS on Thursday that Pope Francis “expressed his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families,” adding that he’s also considering recent invitations to visit New York and D.C. (He’s still mulling over an invitation to address a joint session of Congress, for instance.)
As CBS reported, Chaput, along with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, personally pitched their invitation to Francis at the Vatican in April.
The World Meeting of Families — not to be confused with the separate, evangelical-run World Congress of Families — was founded by Pope John Paul II and has been held every three years since 1994. The archbishop and church leaders involved in its planning are still working out the details of how the conference will address some of the controversial family issues toward which the Pope has taken a more inclusive tone.
In any case, organizers have built their plans around the assumption that Francis would attend, NCR reported in May. This fall, Pope Francis has convened a rare “Synod on the Family” in Rome to discuss hot topics such as the ban on divorce and remarriage and contraception.
[This post has been updated]