VATICAN CITY (AP) — U.S. officials urged Pope Francis to put Philadelphia on his 2015 travel agenda Tuesday, making a pilgrimage to Rome to lobby for his participation at a church meeting for families that has taken on new resonance with Francis' focus on family issues and divorce.
The lobbying effort was expected to get a boost on Thursday when U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Francis at the Vatican.
The governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter made their pitch to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, whose Pontifical Council for the Family is helping organize the Sept. 22-27 meeting.
Popes have attended five of the seven World Meetings of the Family, and Francis has made family issues the top priority of his pontificate. He also has a standing invitation to address the U.S. Congress and would presumably speak at the United Nations if he were on the East Coast.
But no confirmation of his participation is expected before next year.
Nutter said the celebration in Philadelphia offers Francis "a signature opportunity" to speak about family concerns to a huge audience.
"Francis' message needs to be heard in the United States," he said, giving Paglia a replica of the Liberty Bell.