UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Vatican's envoy to the United Nations strongly hinted that Pope Francis would visit New York next year to address world leaders at the General Assembly, saying Thursday that the coming 70th anniversary of the world body would be "the ideal time."
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the permanent observer of the Holy See, also told The Associated Press that "if he comes to Philadelphia, he will come to New York."
Pope Francis in August confirmed that he wants to visit the United States in 2015 and that he'd like to go to Philadelphia for a family rally. The pope added that he's also been invited by President Barack Obama and Congress and by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Auza spoke Thursday about a coming exhibition of centuries-old manuscripts related to St. Francis of Assisi that will be on display later this month at the United Nations and then in Brooklyn. Pope Francis, a Jesuit from Argentina, was the first to name himself after the 13th-century friar who gave up his wealth to minister to the poor.
"Everybody hopes that this exhibition of St. Francis would be a kind of an announcement" of a papal visit, Auza said.
Then he dropped another hint, comparing the rare exhibition to the Vatican's loaning of the Michelangelo masterpiece "Pieta" for a popular World's Fair exhibit in New York in 1964 — which was followed months later by the first visit by a reigning pope to the U.S.
Pope Paul VI addressed the U.N. on that historic visit.
"We hope this same sense of celebration will take place this time," Auza said of the new exhibition. He added it's likely that only the pope himself will make an official announcement of his travel plans.
The fragile manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries feature the first writings related to St. Francis, including the famous Canticle of the Creatures, a poetic celebration of nature and "our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us."
The work is seen as the beginning of Italian literature.
The manuscripts, on display in the United States for the first time, are set to arrive Friday and will be on display at the U.N. from Nov. 17-28.
"We think the exhibition could be a good presentation of the message the pope will give us in September 2015," when the annual U.N. General Assembly of world leaders meets, said Natalia Quintavalle, the consul general of Italy in New York.