Pope Francis plans to visit United States next year
By Philip Pullella and Natalie Pompilio
VATICAN CITY/PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Pope Francis announced on Monday he would make his first visit to the United States next year, travelling to Philadelphia where he will celebrate an outdoor mass before an audience expected to number in the millions.
Francis ended months of speculation when he told an inter-religious conference on marriage he would go to Philadelphia in September for the Roman Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families.
He is expected to celebrate Mass on Sept. 27 in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where millions of people are likely to attend, a World Meeting of Families official said.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said he was "overjoyed" at the prospect of the pope's attendance at the World Meeting of Families, which convenes every three years.
"His charisma, presence and voice will electrify the gathering," Chaput said in a statement.
"As I've said many times before, I believe that the presence of the Holy Father will bring all of us - Catholic and non-Catholic alike - together in tremendously powerful, unifying and healing ways," he said.
The leader of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church would be the fourth pope to visit the United States, the archdiocese said. Pope Paul VI was the first in 1965, followed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Catholics in Philadelphia, where the archdiocese has 1.4 million members, said they were thrilled. Continued...