VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis' 10th foreign trip will be the
longest of his pontificate and, with stops in Cuba, three
U.S. cities and the United Nations, it also will be a "very
complex trip," the papal spokesman said.
Briefing reporters about the trip, Jesuit Father Federico
Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the plans were "enriched"
after Pope Francis agreed to go to the World Meeting of
Families in Philadelphia and, particularly, after the United
States and Cuba announced they were moving toward normalizing
The pope will be away from the Vatican Sept. 19-28 and is
scheduled to give 26 formal speeches - only four of them
entirely in English, Father Lombardi said. The all-English
texts are prepared for Pope Francis' visit to the White House
Sept. 23, his address to a joint meeting of Congress Sept.
24, his meeting with U.N. staff members Sept. 25 and his
thank you to trip organizers in Philadelphia Sept. 27.
His address to the U.N. General Assembly will be entirely in
Spanish, Father Lombardi said. Other speeches in the United
States either will be in Spanish or a mixture of Spanish and
English, but translations will be provided.
The spokesman noted that not only will Pope Francis be the
first pope to visit the U.S. Congress, but papal speeches to
parliaments of any single nation are extremely rare. The
Polish St. John Paul II addressed the Polish and Italian
parliaments; German Pope Benedict XVI addressed the German
and Italian parliaments.
Responding to rumors and questions that have arisen
surrounding the trip. Father Lombardi said:
- Pope Francis has never been to Cuba, except for a one-hour,
unscheduled stopover on a flight from Mexico City to Buenos
Aires. "He did not leave the airport," the spokesman said.
- Pope Francis and Fidel Castro both have expressed an
interest in meeting each other, but the date and time not
been finalized. Pope Francis will be in Havana, Cuba's
capital, from the evening of Sept. 19 until early morning
- The pope is scheduled to meet the president of the U.N.
Security Council when he visits Sept. 25. Russia currently
holds the presidency, Father Lombardi said. If Russian
President Vladimir Putin were in town, he would represent his
country at the meeting, but Putin is not scheduled to be
there, so the pope will meet the Russian ambassador to the
- The Vatican, Father Lombardi said, has never announced in
advance a papal meeting with survivors of clerical sexual
abuse. If such a meeting takes place in the United States,
the Vatican will inform the media afterward, he said. When
pushed on the likelihood of such a meeting, he said, "You
can't exclude anything with this pope."
- Pope Francis will canonize the 17th-century Franciscan
missionary Blessed Junipero Serra in Washington Sept. 23.
Asked if the pope knew of the controversy surrounding Blessed
Serra and his treatment of the native peoples of California,
Father Lombardi said the pope is very familiar with debates
over "evangelization and colonization," debates which are
similar in areas settled by the Spanish. However, the
spokesman said, there is "great consensus" about Blessed
Serra's importance as a missionary and in the history of
The pope has made it a custom on foreign trips to invite into
his entourage a lay Vatican employee - besides members of his
security, the leaders of the Swiss Guard and employees of the
Vatican newspaper, radio and television center. This time,
Father Lombardi said, the pope invited Valentina Ambrosi, an
artist from the Vatican mosaic studio.
The Vatican secretary of state, currently Cardinal Pietro
Parolin, usually accompanies a pope on foreign trips. Because
of the "foreign policy importance" of the visits to Cuba, the
United States and United Nations, the spokesman said, the
pope also has asked Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican
foreign minister, into the entourage.
The Italian airline Alitalia will fly the pope from Rome to
Havana, to the Cuban cities of Holguin and Santiago de Cuba,
and on to Washington, he said. From Washington to New York,
then to Philadelphia and back to Rome, American Airlines will
provide the plane for the pope, his entourage and about 75
media people from around the world.