U.S. officials has confirmed that Pope Francis will make a stop at the White House to meet with President Barack Obama on Sept. 23, during his trip to the United States for the World Meeting of Families. “The President and the First Lady will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the White House on Wednesday, September 23,” said a March 26 statement from the White House press secretary. “During the visit, the President and the Pope will continue the dialogue, which they began during the President’s visit to the Vatican in March 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.” “The President looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as Pope,” the statement said. Late last year, Pope Francis officially confirmed that he would be coming to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September. A global Catholic event, the world meeting seeks to support and strengthen families. St. John Paul II founded the event in 1994, and it takes place every three years. The Philadelphia gathering this year will take place Sept. 22-27. The papal events during the final days of the meeting are expected to draw crowds as large as 1 million. Archbishop Bernardito Auza — a member of the organizing committee for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S. — had told CNA in January that the proposed papal schedule included a projected arrival to Washington, D.C. on the evening of Sept. 22, and a proposed visit to the White House the following morning, where the official welcoming ceremony would take place. Other details of the proposed itinerary included a Mass at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, an address to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24 and a papal address at the United Nations general assembly in New York on Sept. 25, before heading to Philadelphia to spend Sept. 26-27 at the World Meeting of Families. Organizers have stressed that the official schedule during his trip to the U.S. in September has yet to be finalized, although individual items on the itinerary — such as the address to Congress and now the White House visit — are gradually being confirmed by U.S. officials. The Pope has also announced that he will canonize the founder of California’s first missions, Blessed Junipero Serra, during his U.S. trip. The announcement of the Pope’s visit to the White House comes at a time of mixed relations between President Obama and U.S. Church leaders. U.S. bishops have voiced support for some of Obama’s initiatives, including immigration reform policies, while strongly opposing others, including a redefinition of marriage and the federal contraception mandate, which has drawn religious freedom lawsuits from several hundred plaintiffs. The World Meeting of Families will take place shortly before the October 2015 meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which will discuss the mission of the family in the Church and in the world. Focusing on the theme, “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the world meeting will include many speakers and breakout sessions. Keynote speakers include Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines, Cardinal Robert Sarah, professor Helen Alvare, and Dr. Juan Francisco de la Guardia Brin and Gabriela N. de la Guardia. The Philadelphia meeting will mark the first time that the event will be held in the United States. Registration for the 2015 World Meeting of Families began on Nov. 10. The World Meeting of Families website is www.worldmeeting2015.org. It is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WorldMeeting2015 and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WMF2015.
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