Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Pope Francis has accepted his invitation to attend the World Meeting of Families in the U.S. next year.
If the journey takes place, it would be Francis’ first trip to the United States as Pope. But the archdiocese pointed out that Archbishop Chaput’s comments do not serve as official confirmation of the visit and that there has been no official confirmation by the Vatican. Any official confirmation would come approximately six months prior to the event, the archdiocese said.
The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, issued a statement on Friday, saying the Pope has not confirmed his participation at the World Meeting for Families in Philadelphia in 2015. He made the clarification after Archbishop Chaput declared that the Pope would attend.
However, Father Lombardi said that while Pope Francis “has shown his willingness to participate…he has yet to launch any concrete plan or program regarding a trip to the U.S. or Mexico”.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said, "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. We are further heartened and excited by the comments of the Vatican Press Office regarding Pope Francis’ ‘willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families.’"
Archbishop Chaput mentioned the Pope’s intention to visit before giving ahomily at the opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo, ND, Thursday.
"Pope Francis has told me that he is coming," said the archbishop as he invited his fellow Native Americans to the 2015 celebration being held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27.
"The Pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week," he said, according to a report by Catholic News Service.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said July 25 Pope Francis has expressed "his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families" in Philadelphia, and has received invitations to visit other cities as well, which he is considering. Those invitations include New York, the United Nations and Washington.
Some Mexican media have cited government officials saying a September trip to North America also could include stops in Mexico, but Father Lombardi said that at this moment "nothing operational has begun relative to a plan or program for a visit to the United States or Mexico. Keep in mind, there is still more than a year to go before the meeting in Philadelphia."
Earlier this week, Archbishop Chaput announced that Sts. John Paul II and Gianna Beretta Molla were designated Patron Saints for the World Meeting of Families. The announcement was made in conjunction with the unveiling of the first-class relic of St. John Paul II for public veneration during the July 20 Sunday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
A press release noted that John Paul is "inextricably linked" to both Philadelphia and this world gathering for the family. In 1979, John Paul was the first Pope to ever visit the City of Brotherly Love, and 15 years later he celebrated the first World Meeting of Families. When Pope Francis canonized him this year, he called his predecessor "the Pope of the family."
The archdiocese also said that St. Gianna "encompasses the conference’s 2015 theme, ‘Love is our mission: the family fully alive.’ A pediatrician and mother of four, St. Gianna is best known for her selfless love as a mother, giving her life to bear her fourth child in 1962. She was beatified in 1994—the first year the World Meeting of Families was ever held—by St. John Paul II and canonized in 2004. St. Gianna is the Patron Saint for mothers, physicians and unborn children."
"Sts. John Paul II and Gianna had a deep and abiding commitment to strengthening the family and sustaining it with love," said Archbishop Chaput. "This historic event will give thousands from around the globe the opportunity to share in the same commitment of our Patron Saints."
Beginning with 1994, The Year of the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Family has been responsible for organizing the World Meetings of Families in Rome (1994); Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia, Spain (2006); Mexico City (2009), and Milan (2012).