Pope Francis announces 2015 visit to the United States

The trip will be Francis's first official visit to the United States, and only the second papal visit to Philadelphia

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The Independent US

Pope Francis is to visit the US city of Philadelphia next year, he has announced.

The Catholic spiritual leader said he would attend a conference about the importance of family set to be hosted in the city.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of a papal denunciation of the right-to-die movement, in which Pope Francis described assisted suicide as “playing with life”.

A Vatican spokesperson could not yet confirm whether the Pope would visit other US cities during the course of his trip, but said he would “guarantee his presence” at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year.

Francis’s announcement of a visit to the US follows a sustained lobbying campaign by local officials.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, the conference's organizer met with the Pope in March and personally invited him to the city.

Last week a campaign by Philadelphia’s Catholic schools saw children write 10,000 handwritten notes of invitation to Pope Francis.

The announcement was made at an interreligious Vatican conference on family values.

Though Pope Francis has not been as active as his predecessors in speaking out against the abortion, he took to the stage recently at a meeting of Association of Italian Catholic Doctors to decry growing support for assisted suicide as “a false sense of compassion”.

"This is playing with life," he said. "Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator."

Religious groups, including the Catholic Church, hold a great deal of political influence in the United States, where access to pregnancy terminations is a live political issue.

The visit will be the second paper visit to Philadelphia and his first visit to the United States as Pope.