Pope confirms trip to D.C., NYC with Philly in September

During an in-flight interview aboard the papal plane from Manila, Philippines, to Rome on Jan. 19, Pope Francis confirmed that he will visit Washington, D.C., and New York City before heading to Philadelphia and the World Meeting of Families in September.

The pope also said he will canonize the 18th-century Spanish Franciscan missionary Blessed Junipero Serra in Washington; he had made the surprise canonization announcement during the trip’s first in-flight news conference while traveling from Sri Lanka to the Philippines days before.

Although not confirmed, there have been reports that Pope Francis may also address Congress while in Washington. In New York, the pope will visit the United Nations and possibly Ground Zero.

Other items of interest:

◗ Pope Francis clarified earlier comments he had made about freedom of speech and respect for religion saying that “prudence, the virtue that regulates our relations,” must be a priority. “In theory we all agree: there is freedom of expression, a violent aggression is not good ... but in practice let us stop a little because we are human and we risk to provoke others. ... Freedom must be accompanied by prudence.”

The comments came following the Jan. 15 news conference in which he said that freedom of expression has limits. While one should not kill in the name of religion, Pope Francis said, he also added that people react badly to being offended.

◗ The pope again lauded Blessed Pope Paul VI’s teaching on birth control, calling “openness to life ... a condition for the Sacrament of Matrimony.”

He added, however, “This does not mean that the Christian must make children in a series.”

Rather, he emphasized, as have popes before him, “responsible parenthood” and using Church-approved forms of family planning. He emphasized, too, a spirit of generosity, saying that each child is a treasure.

◗ When asked about corruption, Pope Francis said Church and government corruption is a “worldwide problem,” and that “we must ask pardon for those Catholics, those Christians who scandalize with their corruption.”

In what has become commonly understood as Pope Francis’ colorful colloquial language, the pope added that when he once was offered a part in a kickback scheme from government officials, he had the option of “playing dumb” or “kicking them where the sun doesn’t shine.” He played dumb.

◗ The pope confirmed future trips to Africa and South America, saying that while plans are not yet finalized, he likely will travel to the Central African Republic and Uganda before the end of this year. Also in the works are two trips to South America: one likely in 2015 to Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador and perhaps one in 2016 to Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador.

◗ Regarding his repeated requests for Muslim leaders to denounce acts of terrorism by religious extremists, Pope Francis said, “I believe we have to give them a little more time, because for them the situation is not easy.” He continues to hope, however, for a unified response.

◗ The pope clarified what he meant by a previous reference to the concept of “ideological colonization” — essentially when poor countries are forced to change their ideas, structures or way of life in order to receive financial aid. “It colonizes the people with an idea that wants to change a mentality or a structure,” he said, comparing it to the fascism and Nazi dictatorships of the 20th century.

◗ Regarding his planned encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis said he intends to complete his work in March and release it in June or July.