MILAN – Pope Benedict XVI says the next World Meeting of Families will be held in 2015 in Philadelphia.
Benedict announced the venue during a Sunday Mass in Milan celebrating the seventh such gathering of families from around the world. The pope sent his greetings to Archbishop Charles Chaput and the Catholics "of that great city" and said he was looking forward to meeting them in 2015.
Officials said it was too early to confirm the papal calendar. Traditionally papal trips abroad are usually confirmed first by the local diocese hosting the trip once the dates are set, a few months before the journey. And the Vatican releases details of such a pilgrimage only a few weeks before departure.
Benedict made a six-day pilgrimage to the U.S. in 2008, which saw him visit Washington and New York, and celebrate his 81st birthday.
Since becoming pope, Benedict attended a world families meeting in Valencia, Spain, but skipped one in Mexico.
Chaput hailed the visit in a statement from Milan, where diocesan officials said he received the icon of the Holy Family, which is the symbol of The World Meeting of Families.
"I am so grateful to the Holy Father that he has chosen Philadelphia and excited that we will host the 2015 World Meeting of Families," Chaput said. "It's fitting that this gathering, which celebrates the cornerstone of society, will take place in America's cradle of freedom. The Holy Father's choice is a gift to the local Church in Philadelphia and to the whole nation."
Chaput, who heads the five-county archdiocese that has about 1.5 million Catholics, also said the visit would highlight the importance of the family, which he said "is founded on a deep and loving union between one man and one woman for mutual support and the nurturing of children" and is "the basic evangelizing unit of the Church."
"Every effort to promote marriage and the family serves not only the Church, but also the common good," he said.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II drew gigantic crowds when he visited the City of Brotherly Love as part of his first U.S. tour as pontiff.
The announcement of the papal visit comes as jurors are deliberating in the landmark trial of a former Roman Catholic church official charged with conspiring to hide priest-abuse complaints and endangering children by keeping predators in ministry.
Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy, is the first U.S. church official charged for his handling of child sex-abuse complaints. He said he tried to get the Philadelphia archdiocese to address the problem, only to be rebuffed by his archbishop, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Prosecutors maintain that Lynn could have quit or called police.