New York Catholics hoping Pope Francis would visit the Big Apple had their prayers answered Monday: the popular pontiff said he’d be speaking at the UN in September and going to Washington -- in addition to previously announced plans to visit Philadelphia.
He revealed the news on board the papal jetliner as flew home to Rome from the Phillippines, where millions greeted him the day before in the rain at an open air Mass.
The pope’s full itinerary is still in the planning stages, a Vatican spokesman told reporters, but a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Mass at Madison Square Garden, and a ceremony at Ground Zero are all strong possibilities, the Catholic News Agency reports.
The CNA also reports that Francis, while in New York, is planning some sort of “interethnic meeting” in light of the city’s great diversity.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza told CNA the pope will arrive in the nation’s capital Sept. 22 and visit the White House, say Mass at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and speak to a joint session of Congress.
He’ll then head for NYC, where the UN General Assembly opens the 25th; and then close his visit at the World Meeting of Families in Philly.
New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling told NBC News that he expects that "a visit by Pope Francis is going to easily surpass” the frenzy that greeted John Paul II's visit in 1995 and Benedict's in 2008, in which he also went to Ground Zero.
"You can't go to anything connected to the Archdiocese without people asking if Pope Francis is coming," Zwilling told NBC.