Pope Francis will come to Philadelphia in September 2015 to attend the World Meeting of Families, according to Archbishop Charles Chaput.
Chaput, head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, confirmed the papal visit Thursday during a Mass at a conference in Fargo, N.D., a Catholic News Service report said.
"Pope Francis has told me that he is coming" to the Sept. 22-27 event, the report said. "The pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week."
Despite Chaput's remarks, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in a statement that there has been "no official confirmation by the Vatican or the Holy See" of Pope Francis' attendance.
"We still expect that any official confirmation will come approximately six months prior to the event," the statement said. The Vatican typically does not confirm papal visits until six months beforehand.
"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 statement continued. "While Archbishop Chaput's comments do not serve as official confirmation, they do serve to bolster our sincere hope that Philadelphia will welcome Pope Francis next September."
If Francis comes, it would be the first papal visit to the United States since Francis' predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, visited New York City and Washington, D.C., in April 2008.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis has expressed "his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families" and is considering invitations to visit other cities, including New York and Washington, the Catholic News Service report said.
Some Mexican media have speculated the trip could include Mexico, but Lombardi stopped short of saying any visit was guaranteed.
"Nothing operational has begun relative to a plan or program for a visit to the United States or Mexico," he said. "Keep in mind, there is still more than a year to go before the meeting in Philadelphia."
In March, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Gov. Tom Corbett and business leaders from Philadelphia visited Rome to encourage the pope to attend the World Meeting of Families, which is expected to attract more than 1 million visitors to the city. The mayor presented the pope with a small replica of the Liberty Bell and several sports jerseys.
Two months later, the mayor and governor welcomed Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to Philadelphia. The council has sponsored the family conference every three years.
During that visit, Chaput announced the theme of the conference: "Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive." More recently, Chaput said Pope St. John Paul II and St. Gianna Molla are the patron saints of the event.
Corbett has said the World Meeting of Families could generate $100 million in tourist spending. He based that estimate on revenues from Democratic and Republican conventions.
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