Guess Who Might Visit the U.S.?

Posted: Jan 25, 2014 8:00 AM
Guess Who Might Visit the U.S.?

Pope Francis, that’s who. The National Catholic Reporter has more:

Pope Francis has expressed an intention to visit the United States in September 2015, according to Vatican sources who spoke to NCR on background this week, who stressed that nothing is official and the date is too far into the future to be certain.

The primary motive for the trip would be the eighth edition of the World Meeting of Families, an event held every three years that was launched under Pope John Paul II in 1994 and is held in various parts of the world. The Vatican announced in February 2013, shortly before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, that the next edition will be Sept. 22-27, 2015, in Philadelphia.

The family has been a major preoccupation both for the church generally and for Francis personally. Among other things, the pope has dedicated the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled for October, to the theme of the family.

Because the General Assembly of the United Nations generally meets in September, there is also speculation that Francis might combine the Philadelphia outing with a stop in New York to address the U.N.

Popes have not always attended previous versions of the World Meeting of Families, and there has been uncertainty ever since the election of Pope Francis whether he would make the trip.

Again, nothing is certain albeit the Holy Father himself has reportedly expressed interest in visiting the United States next year. The article notes either Philadelphia or New York City are the likely destinations, or perhaps both, but we can't know for sure -- or if he'll come at all. Nevertheless, Father Jonathan Morris, who is a Fox News Channel contributor, suspects his visit is "likely" to happen:

Still, even if Francis is fully committed to coming, we won’t know for many months:

As a rule, the Vatican does not confirm the dates of papal trips until shortly before they occur

An official in the Philadelphia archdiocese told NCR on Friday that "these trips are never 'set' until they're official" and that church officials in Philadelphia have had "no official indication."

"We hope, but we don't know," he said.

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I hope so too. It’s one thing to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but if Pope Francis is in the United States, I suspect lots of Catholics (and non-Catholics) would make the trek to go see him.

But could this be a factor in the Vatican's decision-making process?

Privately, Vatican officials have expressed concern about a possible outing to the United States for a different reason: Francis is uncomfortable expressing himself in English. On the other hand, they note, that linguistic handicap has not prevented him from garnering high approval ratings among the country's Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

A late December CNN poll found that 88 percent of American Catholics have a favorable view of the pope, with the survey's director saying that Francis is "arguably the most well-regarded religious figure among the American public today."

In short, Pope Francis is well-liked by Americans and thus his "linguistic handicap" shouldn't be too big of an issue. Or at least we hope not.

The last pontiff to visit the United States was Pope Benedict in 2008.