On Monday morning, Pope Francis personally confirmed that he will visit the United States in September 2015 to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. This will be the Pope’s first visit to the U.S.
The Pope made the announcement during the first session of an interreligious meeting on marriage being held at the Vatican. He had been invited by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on September 16, but this was the first official confirmation of the trip.
“I wish to confirm, if God wills it, that in September of 2015 I will go to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families,” the Pope announced.
Last August, Francis told a news conference that he was considering a three-city U.S. tour next year that would include visits to New York City, Washington D.C., and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
Saying that he would “like to go to Philadelphia for the family meeting,” the Pope then added, “I have been invited by the President of the United States, by the American Congress, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. … So, maybe the three cities together.”
Last week, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, hinted that Pope Francis would visit New York next year to address world leaders at the General Assembly.
“If he comes to Philadelphia, he will come to New York,” he said. Auza also said that the coming 70th anniversary of the world body would be “the ideal time.”
The last visit of a pope to the United States occurred in April 2008, when Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited New York and Washington D.C.
At that time, Benedict praised the contribution of America’s Catholics to the life of their country. “I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society,” he said.
He also reminded his hearers that from the dawn of the Republic, “America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator.”