Is Pope Francis set to visit Philadelphia? Leading officials from the city, including Mayor Michael Nutter, certainly hope so, and on Sunday they will begin their journey to Rome which will culminate in them asking the hugely popular figure to attend a gathering in the city next year.
Alongside Nutter, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Archbishop Charles Chaput of the the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will make the trip, which is expected to depart at around 6pm, and will arrive in the Italian capital on Monday.
This trio aren't there to take in the sights and eat an inordinate amount of past and pizza though, as they will be returning to the United States on Thursday. During their visit they will work alongside Vatican officials to plan the upcoming eighth World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Philadelphia in September 2015.
Those organizing the six-day event believe that over 1 million people from across the globe will attend, which would make it the largest gathering in the city's history. They expect the six-day soiree to pump $100million into the economy too, especially if Francis does turn up.
At the moment, The Vatican haven't confirmed Pope Francis' attendance at the hugely anticipated affair, but they're confident that he will appear as other popes have done so in the past.
Nutter, Corbett, and Chaput attended a press conference before they left, with the latter admitting, "I have great confidence that he'll come. We will meet privately with the holy father, and share with him the great excitement and momentum surrounding the meeting in Philadelphia."
Philadelphia officials are currently in the process of raising funds for the event. The Archdiocese has confirmed that around $1.5million has been accumulated so far, however they are fully aware that an even larger amount is still needed.
The last World Meeting of Families was held in 2012 in Milan. Previously it has took place in Rome, 1994, Rio de Janeiro, 1997, Rome, 200, Manila, 2003, Valencia, 2006, and Mexico City, 2009.
It is organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, which was established by Pope John Paul II on 9 May 1981. The Council "promotes the pastoral care of families, protects their rights and dignity in the Church and in civil society, so that they may ever be more able to fulfil their duties."
It also "works for a deeper understanding of the Church's teaching," while it "encourages studies in the spirituality of marriage and the family."
[Image via giulio napolitano/Shutterstock]