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January 19, 2015

Pope Francis’ proposed US schedule

In Philly, possible visits to hospital, prison

Pope Francis said on Monday his U.S. trip in September will be limited to Philadelphia, Washington and New York and he will not go to California to canonize Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Spanish Franciscan priest who founded missions there.

Francis listed those cities in answer to a question during an hour-long, freewheeling news conference with reporters on the plane returning to Rome at the end of a trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

In a surprise announcement last Thursday while flying between the two countries, Francis said he would canonize Serra during the U.S. trip, stoking speculation the tour might include California.

"I would like to go to California for the canonization of Junipero, but I think there is the problem of time. It requires two more days," he said.

Francis said the sainthood ceremony would take place in Washington at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Other details of Francis’ proposed schedule during his U.S. visit have been released.

According to a report by the Catholic News Agency's Rome bureau chief, Alan Holdren, Pope Francis would be expected to arrive in Washington, D.C. on the evening of Sept. 22, with a visit to the White House planned for the following morning, where the official welcoming ceremony would take place.

The proposed schedule was announced by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, a member of the organizing committee for Francis’ visit.

Following a stop at the White House, the pontiff would celebrate Mass - primarily for bishops, consecrated and religious men and women, seminarians and representatives from humanitarian and Catholic charitable organizations - at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Holdren reported.

“Philadelphia is confirmed. That’s for sure,” - Archbishop Bernardito Auza, a member of the organizing committee for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S.

A highlight of the Washington leg of the trip might be the pontiff’s speech to the joint-meeting of Congress, Archbishop Auza said.

From D.C, Pope Francis would be expected to head to New York City on the afternoon of Sept. 24 and open the three-day Post-2015 Sustainable Development Summit before the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25.

The summit is expected to tackle many issues, including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.

The papal address at the U.N. would take up the entire morning of Sept. 25, Archbishop Auza said. That would be followed by an afternoon of interreligious meetings, with the possibility of an interethnic meeting, “given the diverse ethnic background of the city,” a visit to Ground Zero, and, “of course, the Pope will visit St. Patrick’s (Cathedral). That’s for sure,” though celebrating Mass at St. Patrick’s is unlikely.

Mass has been proposed instead for another area of New York – possibly Madison Square Garden.

“But these are just proposals. At the end of February there will be the first organizational visit (from a Vatican delegation), and then we will see what we could really fill in,” the archbishop said. 

From New York, Pope Francis would head to Philadelphia in the early morning of the Sept. 26 as the last leg of his trip, and its focal point, where he is set to participate in the World Meeting of Families from Sept. 26-27.

“Philadelphia is confirmed. That’s for sure,” the archbishop observed, explaining that the two big events set to take place with the Pope are a prayer vigil on the 26th and Mass Sunday, the 27th.

There is also a meeting planned with grandparents and children, however, the archbishop said he does not know whether or not the pope will participate, Holdren said. Visits to a children’s hospital or a juvenile prison are also possible.

Read the full story here.

Reuters has contributed to this report.