The Archdiocese of Philadelphia was forced to respond again Thursday to a reported off-the-cuff remark indicating that Pope Francis will come to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015.
This time, the speaker was the pope himself, answering a question about whether he would attend the international gathering.
"In Italian, I asked him if he would come to Philadelphia," NBC reporter Anne Thompson said of the question she asked the pontiff on the papal plane to South Korea. "He said 'yes,' and he mentioned World Family Day."
The archdiocese said there is still no official confirmation from the Vatican that the pope will make the trip to Philadelphia.
"We still expect that any official confirmation will come approximately six months prior to the event, and we remain confident that the Holy Father will be present with us," the archdiocese said in a statement. "This confidence is based on Archbishop [Charles J.] Chaput's personal conversations with Pope Francis and previous comments by the Vatican Press Office regarding Pope Francis' 'willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families.' "
The archdiocese issued a similar statement last month when Chaput said at the opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo, N.D., that the pope would be in Philadelphia for three days of the conference.
The international gathering, set for Sept. 22-27 next year, is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors a day for its conferences promoting traditional family values and Catholic teachings. But a visit by the pope to say Mass - traditionally scheduled for the final day - would likely draw more than a million, as was the case when Pope John Paul II visited Philadelphia in 1979.