-- Pope Francis plans to visit Philadelphia in 2015, the pontiff announced today. It would be his first trip to the United States as pope.
The pope made the announcement when he addressed participants at a Vatican conference on traditional marriage.
The trip, expected for late September, would coincide with the World Meeting of Families organized by the Catholic Church, a world event that will take place in Philadelphia that focuses on strengthening family bonds.
“I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families,” Francis, 77, speaking in Italian, told the crowd at the Vatican. “Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart.”
Only three other reigning popes have ever visited the United States: Paul VI in 1965; John Paul II, who traveled to the country seven different times; and Pope Benedict XVI, who visited the United States in April 2008.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who was on hand for the announcement in Rome, expressed excitement about the pope’s planned visit in a statement released by World Meeting of Families.
“I am overjoyed by Pope Francis’ announcement that he will join with us for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year. A hallmark of his papacy has been a keen focus on the many challenges that families face today globally. His charisma, presence and voice will electrify the gathering,” Chaput said in a statement.