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Pope Francis considering a visit to Philadelphia in 2015

Jan. 31, 2014 at 3:44 PM

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Pope Francis has expressed an interest in attending a 2015 conference in Philadelphia, a report citing Vatican sources said Friday.

The pope would attend the eighth World Meeting of Families, a major conference of the Catholic Church held every three years since its 1994 inception, CNN reported, citing sources in the Vatican.

The meeting is scheduled to be held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-25, 2015.

"The World Meeting of Families has traditionally been attended by the Holy Father. We are planning as if Pope Francis will be with us and have no indication that he will not attend," Kenneth Gavin, a Philadelphia diocese spokesman, said in a statement.

A visit by Francis, an Argentinian, would resonate with the United States' growing Latin American population, observers said.

"The Hispanic population is growing in the United States, and with the vast majority being Catholic, having the first pope from Latin America come to visit will be very exciting," said Springfield, Ill., Bishop Thomas Paprocki.

"Having a native Latin American pope who is going to be speaking native Spanish to Latinos in the United States will be the first time they see themselves reflected so powerfully in the church hierarchy," said Roberto Suro, public policy professor at the University of Southern California.

The United Nations General Assembly typically meets in September in New York, and the Pope's visit to Philadelphia could be combined with an address to the General Assembly, CNN said.

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