CNN’s Vatican analyst, John Allen, says he has heard from sources inside the Vatican that the pope has expressed his intentions to visit the United States next year for the Meeting, which has been held every three years since Pope John Paul II first convened it in 1994. The Vatican has announced that the next meeting will be held in Philadelphia from September 22-27, 2015.
“The World Meeting of Families has traditionally been attended by the Holy Father,” said Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, in a statement. “We are planning as if Pope Francis will be with us and have no indication that he will not attend.”
However, he added that “It is important to note that reports circulating widely today regarding the Holy Father’s presence are not official.”
A visit by the Church’s first Latin American pope would galvanize the growing Latino population in the U.S., many of whom have left the Catholic Church for evangelical denominations.
“The Hispanic population is growing in the United States, and with the vast majority being Catholic, having the first pope from Latin America come to visit will be very exciting,” said Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois to CNN.
“As far as I know, he’s never visited the United States, and as shepherd of the universal church it will really be beneficial for him to have a greater understanding of the flock here, and for people here to get to know our Holy Father.”
One concern the pope might have concerns his proficiency with the English language, which is not at the same level as his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict, both of whom visited the U.S. during their pontificates and were fluent in several languages.
No firm plans have been made yet, CNN reports, and confirmation is not expected to come for some time.
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