PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- There is no confirmation that Pope Francis will attend a major gathering of the world's Roman Catholics next year in Philadelphia, the archdiocese said Friday in response to a report that the archbishop had said Francis would come.
The popular Francis has yet to visit the U.S. as pope, and the question of whether he will attend the gathering has drawn intense speculation.
The Catholic News Service published comments that Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput made Thursday, reporting that he announced at a Mass that "Pope Francis has told me that he is coming" to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
The archdiocese, however, cautioned in a statement that Chaput's comments weren't "official confirmation" and that church officials would expect that to come about six months prior to the event scheduled for September 2015.
"Archbishop Chaput has frequently shared his confidence in Pope Francis' attendance at the World Meeting, and his personal conversations with the Holy Father are the foundation for that confidence," the statement said.
A Vatican spokesman added that although Francis has said "he is willing" to attend, there is "no operating plan or preparations underway" for a visit.
The Catholic News Service said it stood by its account of the archbishop's remarks.
Popes have attended five of the past seven such conferences around the globe, and Pope Benedict had announced his intention to come when Philadelphia was announced as the 2015 venue.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, noted that Pope Francis has received other invitations to visit North America, including from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who met this week with the Vatican's No. 2 official in Rome, as well as one from Mexico.
Benedict made the last papal visit to the U.S. in 2008, a six-day pilgrimage during which he went to Washington and New York. The most recent visit to Philadelphia by a pontiff was in 1979, when Pope John Paul II drew gigantic crowds as part of his first papal tour of the country.