Pope Francis to visit U.S. next year
Pope Francis announced that he will attend a world family conference in Philadelphia next year, and may add stops in Washington, D.C. to visit the White House and New York to address the U.N.
Pope Francis said he would visit the U.S. next September to attend a world meeting on family issues in Philadelphia, confirming a widely expected trip that could also include stops in Washington and New York.
During a conference on marriage at the Vatican Monday, the pope announced that he would go to Philadelphia next September for a major meeting on family issues. While the pontiff has said in recent months that he was considering the trip, his comments provided the first official confirmation of the first visit of the hugely popular pope on U.S. soil.
Pope Francis may also pay a visit to the White House and could address the United Nations in New York. During his return from a visit to South Korea in August, the pope told journalists that it would make sense for him to add stops in New York and Washington, although he stopped short of making an official announcement.
During his visit to the Vatican last March, President Barack Obama invited the pope to the White House, while United National Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon extended an offer to visit the U.N. House Speaker John Boehner has also invited Pope Francis to address a joint session of congress.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Monday no further stops beyond the Philadelphia visit have yet been confirmed. The Vatican typically announces papal travels no more than six months in advance.
However, the speculation around a possible visit by the pope to the U.S. has been particularly intense, given his huge popularity. The Argentina-born pontiff is likely to receive an especially warm welcome from the U.S.’s large Hispanic population.
The pope’s strong interest in the plight of migrants has led some to expect that he will visit the U.S.-Mexican border during his visit. The pope himself said during his South Korea trip in August that such an option wasn't yet decided.
If the pope were to visit the U.S.-Mexican border, it would no doubt bring a strong reaction from opponents of President Obama's policies. Francis would be injecting himself directly into the middle of a domestic political dispute – something previous popes have been reluctant to do. But this pope is on a crusade to open the borders of rich countries to the world's poor. And he has chastised our immigration policies in the past. A visit to the border would be entirely possible, given his stated positions on immigration.
Still, for many Catholics, the opportunity to see a pope in the flesh is an exciting prospect. I had long since left the Church when Saint John Paul II visited America for the first time in 1979, about a month before the election of Ronald Reagan. Watching his incredible trip to Poland the previous June, you knew he was a world-historical figure and that the days of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe were numbered.
Will Pope Francis be that kind of pope? He certainly has the potential, as he has inspired millions of people all around the world. But his war against capitalism is wrongheaded and doomed to failure. In the end, many of the policies he supports are little more than leftist boilerplate – hardly revolutionary at all.
But he is obviously a humble servant of God, and for that, he will be admired by many who might disagree with him.