Pope's US visit to include New York, Washington

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WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) Pope Benedict's first visit to the United States next April will include stops in Washington and New York over six days, the US Catholic bishops announced today.

During the trip, from April 15-20, 2008, the Pope will address the United Nations in New York at the invitation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and meet with the bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the announcement said.

Catholic University of America also said the Pope would visit its campus on April 17 to speak about Catholic education to an invitation-only audience.

Vatican sources had indicated in September that the Pope was planning a spring visit but the dates were not made public until Monday's announcement.

''This is a blessed moment for our nation,'' said Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It was still not clear where the Pope would meet President George W Bush but traditionally a head of state greets a pope at his arrival.

The Vatican wants the trip to be out of the way before the the US presidential campaign enters its most heated phase to avoid anything that could be seen as trying to influence the vote.

The Pope is also due to visit France and Australia in 2008.

REUTERS SBA RAI0032

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