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Pope Francis says he's coming to NYC

Pope Francis is flanked by Padre Federico Lombardi

Pope Francis is flanked by Padre Federico Lombardi while speaking to journalists during his trip back to Rome on Jan. 19, 2015 from the Philippines. Credit: Getty Images

Pope Francis said Monday he will add New York and Washington to a previously announced visit to Philadelphia in late September.

"The three cities are Philadelphia for the Meeting of Families, New York . . . for the visit to the UN, and Washington. It is these three," the pope told journalists during an in-flight, hourlong news conference on the return to Rome from a weeklong trip to Asia, the Catholic News Agency reported.

Besides addressing the United Nations General Assembly, the pope also may celebrate a Mass at Madison Square Garden, visit St. Patrick's Cathedral and hold an interreligious meeting, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See's permanent observer to the UN, told the news agency.

"We are overjoyed to hear that the pope has said he plans to visit New York," said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

He said the archdiocese is still waiting for more details on the trip so it can set up a complete itinerary. "We're also anxious to show him the restored St. Patrick's Cathedral, which we expect will be part of any visit to New York," he said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement: "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 in our city later this year."

Francis told reporters this trip will not include stops in California, the U.S. border with Mexico or Mexico itself.

Some thought those sites would be added to the U.S. visit, particularly after the pontiff announced plans to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, an 18th century Spanish-born missionary buried at one of the nine missions he founded in California.

The pope previously confirmed his participation in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which is expected to draw 10,000 delegates from 150 countries. It was started by Pope John Paul II in 1994 with the goal of strengthening "the sacred bonds of family across the globe."

Auza said the tentative schedule for the trip would have the pope arriving in Washington the evening of Sept. 22. The next morning he would visit the White House and then later celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, during which he would canonize Junipero.

On Sept. 24 he would address a joint session of Congress, becoming the first pope to do so. That afternoon he would travel to New York, and address the UN the next morning. He would spend Sept. 26 and 27 in Philadelphia.

Auza said Francis may not want to celebrate a huge outdoor Mass in New York so as not to overshadow the one planned for Philadelphia on the final day of his trip. It is expected to draw 1 million people.

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