By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Following an announcement this morning from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that official word of Pope Francis' plan to travel here is expected early next year, Philadelphia officials also said today they do not expect an official answer on whether the pope is coming until about six months before the World Meeting of Families.
And they say Archbishop Chaput's comments of optimism don't affect their planning for the event.
The mayor's chief of staff, Everett Gillison, says the comments by the archbishop don't change preparations for the World Meeting of Families:
"No, the city has been planning as if the pope is coming, one way or another. We believe in our heart of hearts that we will be pleasantly surprised when it comes out officially from the Vatican that he is coming," he added.
Gillison (in center background of photo) says it has been the city's expectation all along that an official answer from the Vatican won't come until six months before the September 2015 meeting. He says it would simply be prudent to plan on the assumption that the pope is coming.
"We do big events very well here in Philadelphia," Gillison tells KYW Newsradio. "We have a great partnership with all of our federal, state, and local agencies that have to come together to do this kind of event. And we will always plan for the absolute, biggest event."
Gillison says even without the pope, the World Meeting of Families is expected to draw between 500,000 and 800,000 people. With the pontiff here, attendance could easily top one million.
On Friday, a spokesperson for the Vatican echoed uncertainty as to the Pope's plans in a statement:
"Regarding visits to America, there have been several invitations that the Pope is carefully considering. The Holy Father has indicated his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 but at the present moment, there are no concrete plans or programs for any visits to the United States or Mexico. Keep in mind that we are still one year away from the Philadelphia meeting."
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