ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis said Monday he hopes to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay this year, as well as the Central African Republic and Uganda.
The 2015 trips, still in their planning stages and not confirmed, would come on top of his planned three-city visit to the United States in September.
Francis said he planned to canonize the 18th-century missionary Junipero Serra during the Washington leg of the U.S. trip, likely at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Serra is controversial today for his role in establishing nine missions in California to convert American Indians.
During the U.S. trip, Francis is also expected to visit the White House and address Congress, then speak at the United Nations in New York, and participate in a massive Catholic rally for families in Philadelphia.
But he essentially ruled out traveling to El Salvador to beatify slain Archbishop Oscar Romero, saying the ceremony would be celebrated by a Vatican official, as is the norm for beatifications.
Francis, who disclosed his travel plans during an in-flight news conference on the way home from the Philippines, said the proposed African trips would likely take place at the end of 2015 to avoid the rainy seasons. No dates were given for Ecuador, Bolivia or Paraguay, but the visits are likely in July, Vatican officials said. Francis also confirmed he hoped to visit Argentina, Chile and Uruguay in 2016, and Peru at some point.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, stressed that the travel plans were “provisional and that nothing has been decided.”