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Confirmed: Pope Francis to visit Philippines in January

Pope Francis talks talks with Vatican Spokseman Father Federico Lombardi, right, during a press conference he held aboard the papal flight on his way back to Rome at the end of a three day trip to the Midle East, Monday, May 26, 2014. AP/Andrew Medichini

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) — Pope Francis announced Tuesday (Manila time) that he plans to visit the Philippines in January next year.

In an Associated Press report, the Roman Pontiff told reporters aboard the papal plane that he will also visit Sri Lanka in the same month for two days before he heads to the Philippines.

Details of his visit, however, have not yet been bared.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle had said he is "confident" that the pope will visit the country in 2015, earlier than the expected 2016 trip to Cebu City for an international Catholic gathering.

CBCP secretary general Msgr. Marvin Mejia said, however, that local Church hierarchy has not yet received any official communication from the Vatican on the Pope's visit.

"The Secretariat has not yet received any official communication from the Vatican or Nunciature," Mejia said, in response to media reports citing Pope Francis' announcement.

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Read: Vatican official: 'Cebu a good choice' for Pope's visit

"The Vatican has not yet announced the dates and specific itinerary that the pope will observe, but I am confident it will happen early next year," Tagle said in a Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) report.

Tagle believes the devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013 and the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that shook Visayas in October 2013 beckoned Francis to come sooner.

"I think one of the purposes of the visit of the Holy Father is to come close to the people who suffered from the recent typhoon and the earthquake," Tagle said.

The bishop said he was the one who invited the Pope to visit the victims of the disasters, saying his presence would be "stronger than the typhoon, in a positive way."

"We will see how that could be done. But he, I think, would want that to be a defining character of his trip," he added.

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