Archdiocese Preparing for Pope Francis Visit to Philadelphia

But will he set foot in the City of Brotherly Love?

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is preparing for a visit by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, but whether he will set foot in the city appears to based more on best intentions rather than certainty at the moment.

Citing Vatican sources, the National Catholic Reporter says the pope is planning to take part in the World Meeting of Families, which is being held in Philadelphia from Sept. 23-27, 2015.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman with the archdiocese, could not confirm that Pope Francis would be attending. However, he says Catholic officials are preparing as if he would be.

"The World Meeting of Families has traditionally been attended by the Holy Father," he said. "We are planning as if Pope Francis will be with us and have every hope that he will be with us."

In 2012, Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, announced his intentions to come to Philadelphia for the summit. However, so far, the newly elected pope has been tight lipped about his travel plans.

The World Meeting of Families is held every three years and focuses on finding ways to "stregnthen the sacred bonds of family across the globe," according to its website. The 2015 session will be the eighth gathering.

"The Archdiocese looks forward to staging this international event and showcasing our great City of Brotherly Love. It is a gift not only for Catholics but everyone in the Philadelphia region," Gavin said.

Philadelphia has about 1.5 million Catholics and the meeting alone is expected to bring thousands more from around the world to the city.

A visit by the pope, who has been seen as a reformer and more progressive on social issues like gays and divorce, could draw even more.

The last pope to visit Philadelphia was the late Pope John Paul II in 1979 when an estimated one million people attended his mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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