Monday, January 19, 2015
(NBC News) Pope Francis' confirmed Monday that his trip to the United States this fall will include stops in Washington and New York City, in addition to the previously announced visit to Philadelphia.
The pontiff told reporters he wishes he could enter the U.S. through the Mexican border "as a sign of brotherhood and of help to the immigrants," but will probably just fly directly to the East Coast.
"You know that [to] go to Mexico without going to visit the Madonna [of Guadalupe] would be a drama. A war could break out," he said, laughing. "I think there will only be those three cities. Later there will be time to go to Mexico."
Details of his itinerary are in the early-planning stages, but organizers are already talking about appearances at the White House, the United Nations and Ground Zero, and even a Mass at Madison Square Garden.
One thing that is not in question: American Catholics can't wait to play host to the hugely popular people's pontiff.
"You can't go to anything connected to the Archdiocese without people asking if Pope Francis is coming," Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told NBC News on Monday.
Zwilling said he was in New York for Pope John Paul II's second visit in 1995 and for Pope Benedict XVI's trip in 2008 but thinks "a visit by Pope Francis is going to easily surpass either of those two events."
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will welcome the 79-year-old leader of the world's Catholics "with open arms."
"Pope Francis is the leading global voice on issues of social justice and income inequality, and New Yorkers from all backgrounds will be tremendously humbled and honored to hear his message right here," de Blasio said in a statment... (continued)