PHILADELPHIA — Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told a North Dakota audience Thursday that Pope Francis assured him he will visit Philadelphia for three days next year, and the Vatican seemed to confirm it, but the Archdiocese of Philadelphia insisted Friday that Chaput’s remarks were off the cuff and unofficial.
‘No official confirmation’
“There has been no official confirmation by the Vatican or the Holy See of Pope Francis’ attendance at the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia,” communications director Kenneth Gavin said in a statement Friday morning.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said Friday that Francis had expressed “his willingness to participate” in the triennial World Meeting, scheduled for Sept. 22 to 27 next year.
The international gathering is expected to draw about 300,000 visitors a day for its conferences promoting traditional values and Catholic teachings.
But a visit by the pope to say Mass — traditionally scheduled for the final day — would likely draw more than 1 million people.
“The pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week,” the Catholic News Service reported Chaput as saying during the opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo. He also invited those in attendance to come to Philadelphia for the gathering.
The archdiocese said Friday it expected that “any official confirmation will come approximately six months prior to the event.”
Pope mulling invitations
Lombardi said Francis was “considering invitations” from New York, Washington, the United Nations, and Mexico.
A three-day visit would be a departure from tradition. Francis’ immediate predecessors — Benedict XVI and John Paul II — usually appeared on the final day of the popular international gatherings to say Mass.