Pope Francis has announced plans for his first visit to the United States next year, to attend a global conference on families in the eastern city of Philadelphia.
The pontiff already has visited eastern Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East during his 20-month pontificate. His office confirmed the visit on Monday. Church leaders in the United States say his itinerary likely will include visits to New York and the United Nations, as well as Washington. But the Vatican so far has only confirmed the Philadelphia destination.
Philadelphia Bishop Charles Chaput says he is overjoyed with the visit, which other officials say will include the pope celebrating an outdoor Mass on September 27 in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Millions are expected to attend.
Francis, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, will be the fourth pope to visit the United States since Pope Paul VI traveled to New York City in 1965.
Ahead of the U.S. visit, Francis is set to visit Turkey and France early next year. He also has scheduled a second visit to Asia, as well as a tour of the Philippines and Sri Lanka.