Philadelphia preps for possible visit from Pope Francis in 2015

PHILADELPHIA - Church officials say plans for a major Catholic gathering in Philadelphia next year are proceeding with the assumption Pope Francis will attend, though that hasn't been officially confirmed.

The eighth World Meeting of Families will take place in September 2015. It's expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Philadelphia Archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin tells The Associated Press that planners are "very, very hopeful the Holy Father will be there."

Pope Benedict XVI announced in 2012 that Philadelphia would host the triennial event. At the time, he said he looked forward to meeting the region's Catholics. He attended the seventh convocation of families in Milan.

Benedict has since retired. Francis' schedule remains unclear.

Traditionally, papal trips abroad are confirmed a few months before the journey.

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