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City says it can't confirm plans for a papal visit

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday that he would view a visit to Boston by Pope Benedict XVI as a "great honor," but that the city has received no confirmation that the pontiff intends to visit.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston has repeatedly invited Benedict to visit, and over the weekend a well-read Catholic blog, Whispers in the Loggia, reported, without any named sources, that the pope would visit Boston April 20, the day before the Boston Marathon.

But spokesmen for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the archdioceses of Baltimore, Boston, New York, and Washington, said the Vatican has not indicated its plans to the bishops.

"We have received no confirmation at all," said Mar Munoz, a spokeswoman for the bishops conference.

In Boston, a spokeswoman for the city Parks & Recreation Department said no one has inquired about the use of Boston Common for a papal Mass, and the Red Sox said there had been no discussion of the possible use of Fenway Park for that purpose.

Menino, recalling the 1979 visit to Boston of Pope John Paul II, said: "I haven't heard anything - nobody's called me - and it's going to take a while to prepare for. But it would be an honor to have the pope to our city once again, and it would be an honor to be host to him."

O'Malley's spokesman, Terrence C. Donilon, issued a statement saying, "Any talk about a potential visit to Boston by the Holy Father is just speculation. The Vatican has not informed the Archdiocese whether Pope Benedict XVI will visit Boston. While we would be honored and blessed to host a visit by the pope, as would dioceses around the country and the world, we simply do not know at this time."

O'Malley is now leading, along with Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Boston, a joint Catholic-Orthodox trip to Istanbul, Rome, and St. Petersburg; the delegation is expected to have an audience with Benedict during the trip.

The Vatican has confirmed that Benedict plans to visit the United States next year to speak at the United Nations, but has not offered details. The Archdiocese of New York has said that it expects the trip to take place in the spring.

Michael Paulson can be reached at

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