PHILADELPHIA - Pope Francis has accepted his invitation to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year, according to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.
"Pope Francis has told me that he is coming," said the archbishop, referring to the celebration being held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27. "The pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week."
Pope Francis has expressed "his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families" in Philadelphia, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said Friday, stopping short of officially confirming the visit.
The pope is also considering invitations he has received to visit other cities during his first trip to the U.S., Lombardi said.
Some Mexican media have cited government officials saying a trip to North America could also include stops in Mexico, but Lombardi said those reports are premature.
"Nothing operational has begun relative to a plan or program for a visit to the United States or Mexico," he said. "Keep in mind, there is still more than a year to go before the meeting in Philadelphia."
A delegation of state and local leaders, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, personally delivered the invitation to Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican in March.
Vatican Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who serves as president of the Holy See's Pontifical Council for the Family, then traveled to the United States in May, joining Corbett, Nutter and other dignitaries on a tour of Philadelphia.
At the time, Corbett said gatherings similar to the World Meeting of Families have drawn up to a million people, and state and city leaders are planning for a similar attendance in Philadelphia.
"The potential for people being over in New Jersey, being well up into Bucks County, well over into Berks County and getting them in and out for all the different events would not be unsimilar to what happened back through the Republican convention [in 2000]," Corbett said.
The theme of the gathering is "Love is our mission: The family fully alive." The week-long conference aims to strengthen family bonds.
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