Pope Francis plans to visit the United States next year in his first trip to the country since he took control of the papacy in March 2013. He will travel to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September, NBC News’ Claudio Lavanga confirmed on Monday.
“I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart,” the pope said Monday morning, according to a translation. He spoke during the opening of a conference at the Vatican that will focus on traditional marriage.
Francis, the first Jesuit to assume the role of pontiff, succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last year and promised to change the ways the Vatican conducts business. He has broken with his predecessors several times, saying the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptives, and asking, “Who am I to judge?” in response to reports of gay clergy members.
During his European tour earlier this year in March, President Barack Obama met with Francis for the first time. The two leaders spoke for almost an hour, which contrasts to the half hour Obama spent with Francis’ predecessor.
The pope reportedly plans to build showers for homeless men and women in Vatican City to ease their suffering, his latest decision in his progressive-thinking mindset. He also recently chose punk-rock icon Patti Smith to sing during a Christmas show that will air live on Italian TV on Dec. 13, according to a local newspaper. The pope met Smith, who is known as the “godmother of punk,” last year during a gathering in St. Peter’s Square.