Pope Francis may add New York, Washington, D.C., to U.S. visit

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican secretary of state said he expects Pope Francis to visit New York City and Washington, D.C., during his September trip to the United States.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who as secretary of state is considered the highest Vatican official under the pope, spoke to reporters Jan. 6, following a ceremony to dedicate a new building at the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome.

Asked if Pope Francis would visit the United Nations in New York in September, Cardinal Parolin replied: “I think so, I think so, but no official announcement has been done. But everybody is speaking of that.”

Asked if the same trip would include a visit to Washington, the cardinal replied: “Of course,” then added with a laugh, “but no official confirmation has been given.”

In November, Pope Francis confirmed reports that he would attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September. So far, that is the only confirmed stop on what is expected to be a more extensive papal visit to North America.

The pope had already acknowledged receiving invitations to Washington from President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress, and to New York from the secretary-general of the United Nations.

“Maybe the three cities together, no?” Pope Francis told reporters in August, adding that he could visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on the same trip — “but it is not certain.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s director of communications, Kenneth Gavin, clarified that Pope Francis’ official schedule during his trip to the United States in September has yet to be finalized.

“We are overjoyed that Pope Francis will be with us in September, and planning for his visit is intensely under way,” he said. “However, no final decisions regarding the papal itinerary for Philadelphia have yet been made.”

“Certainly, we are exploring a wide variety of potential scenarios and there are numerous factors and contingencies to consider,” Gavin noted, adding that final confirmation of the Pope’s Philadelphia schedule “can come only after consultation with the Papal household.”

The update comes after Archbishop Bernardito Auza – a member of the organizing committee for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S. — revealed details of the proposed schedule, which includes visits to three cities.

A Philippines native, Archbishop Auza is the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations in New York and to the Organization of American States in Washington.

The Pope announced in November that he will visit the United States in September, including a stop at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which will take place from Sept. 22-27.

Even before the pope’s announcement, the meeting was expected to draw tens of thousands of people. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told a gathering of Catholic bishops in November that a papal visit would likely result in crowds of about 1 million.

A global Catholic event, the world meeting seeks to support and strengthen families. St. John Paul II founded the event in 1994, and it takes place every three years.

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