Forget Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin reuniting—the hottest ticket on earth is to see the pope.
Since Pope Francis, the first pontiff to come from the Americas, stepped on the world stage after Pope Benedict XVI unprecedentedly hung up his white-and-gold robe last year, he’s revitalized the more than 1 billion Roman Catholic faithful across the globe. Hence, fervor for the world’s top religious shepherd to make a pit stop at Anywhere, USA, has never been greater.
As part of this “popestakes,” U.S. politicians and clergy from Arizona to New York are making pilgrimages to Vatican City to whisper overtures for the pope to come in-person. So far, Philadelphia seems to have an edge.
Speaking to reporters aboard a flight to Asia, en route to Korea and China for official visits, Pope Francis spelled out his intentions to book a trip to the City of Brotherly Love in 2015. He also acknowledged that he’s been courted by the United Nations in New York City, as well as President Obama and lawmakers to make D.C. part of his U.S. tour.
“I was invited by the president of the United States, by the American parliament and the secretary-general of the United Nations,” he says. “So maybe the three cities together.”
Still, there are already takers betting on where the pope will go. “With the tremendous interest we saw on betting who the next pope would be, we thought to add in a few prop bets regarding the pope’s North American visit in 2015,” says Kevin Bradley, manager of Bovada Sportsbook. “He is likely to visit three cities, but nothing is set in stone, and he did mention a possibility of visiting Mexico, so we figured we would throw in Canada as well.”
With this in mind, Vocativ surveyed five of the odds-on favorites that stand to roll out the welcome mat for Pope Francis.
His onboard announcement aside, a trip to Philly in 2015 is pretty much a sure thing. The city runs the oldest Catholic school system in the country and is hosting the eighth World Meeting of Families, which has the theme “Love is our mission.”
“Pope Francis has told me that he is coming,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, shortly after returning from a visit to Rome in July. The city could expect more than 1 million attendees when Pope Francis holds Mass during the five-day conference.
Kenneth A. Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, says Pope Francis’ arrival will be biblical: “People are eager for the chance to be in his presence. This special event may be the first time Pope Francis steps on United States soil, and it will serve as a historical moment of pride for not only Philadelphia, but the entire nation.”
The Big Apple, which has been blessed with more papal appearances than any other U.S. city, is still lobbying hard for a Vatican visit.
Mayor Bill de Blasio took the issue all the way to Rome, pleading with the pope to grace Gotham. “I emphasized to him that not just for Catholic New Yorkers in the city and in all of metropolitan New York, but for all New Yorkers, it would be an extraordinary moment for our city and an extraordinary honor if the pope were to visit.”
It also doesn’t hurt that NYC is home to U.N. headquarters, which has been a stop on every papal tour in U.S. history (see chart).
Joseph Zwilling, an Archdiocese of New York spokesman, says he is “awaiting good news” of the Holy Father’s confirmation to visit. And if he does make it to town, Zwilling says, Pope Francis will be pleased. “In terms of caring for the stranger, caring for the marginalized, caring for the people who have been hurt and bruised, the Archdiocese of New York has a long and proud tradition of doing that.”
Chieko Noguchi, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., is hopeful. “We would of course enjoy a visit by our Holy Father,” she says. But Noguchi admits, “There’s no information to share at this time.”
Still, the previous two popes made a stop in the nation’s capital, so there’s precedent.
However, we’d bet Obama would be willing to make a road trip to…