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UN welcomes Pope’s historic visit

Pope Francis will visit the US in September (CNS)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the announcement that Pope Francis will visit the United Nations in September to address the UN General Assembly.

In a statement yesterday, the United Nations also said the Pope would meet separately with the secretary-general and with the president of the General Assembly and would participate in a town hall gathering with UN staff.

Ban noted that the Pope’s visit came during the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, in which its members would make decisions about sustainable development, climate change and peace. He said he was confident the Pope’s visit would inspire the international community to redouble its efforts for social justice, tolerance and understanding.

The United Nations did not release the detailed itinerary for the meetings, part of a larger papal visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. The Vatican is expected to release the official itinerary about two months in advance of the trip, unless local officials release it earlier.

In February, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced that Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress on September 24, making him the first Pope to do so.

The Archdiocese of Washington said it would host the Pope for his visit, but did not announce the dates. On his flight from the Philippines to Rome in January, Pope Francis said he would canonise Blessed Junipero Serra at Washington’s Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Pope Francis already had announced his participation on September 26 and 27 for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

During his pontificate, St John Paul II visited the United States seven times – two of which were fuel stopovers- making the country his most frequent foreign destination after his native Poland. He addressed the UN General Assembly in 1979 and 1995; Blessed Paul VI did so in 1965, and Pope Benedict XVI addressed the assembly in 2008, during his one US visit as pope.