By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Michael Nutter says his just-completed trip to Rome leaves him more optimistic that Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families next year.

Speaking to reporters at City Hall upon his return, Mayor Nutter said he has no doubt that the trip he made to Rome with Archbishop Chaput and Gov. Corbett sent a clear message of their desire that the pope visit the region next year.

And Pope Francis, Nutter believes, got the point.

“He just seemed not only joyful to see us, but was also quite well aware of why we were there,” Nutter notes.

Nutter says top Vatican officials got that message as well:

“The pope’s secretary came and talked with us, made all the arrangements for us to be where we were seated, make the presentation of gifts and to talk (with the pontiff). And so there is no doubt from our side that they know we want the pope to come.”

So, for all those reasons, Nutter believes the week’s journey to Rome boosted the likelihood that Pope Francis will appear in September of next year for the World Meeting of Families:

“I was more optimistic on Wednesday than my optimism on Sunday, when we left Philadelphia to go,” Nutter admits.

The mayor says the trip had another benefit: it is likely to boost the local fundraising that is needed to stage the World Meeting of Families, with or without the pope.

“I do think that this trip this past week and the extensive media coverage, the way we were presented in Rome, all of that activity will certainly help with fundraising,” Nutter said.

Organizers and city officials do not expect to get a firm answer on whether the pope will attend until about 4-6 months before the event, which begins on September 22, 2015.

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