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Which countries will Pope Francis visit in 2022?

Pope Francis leaves for the Holy Land – fr

© FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

I.Media for Aleteia - published on 12/27/21

The Holy Father resumed his travels this year...but where will he go next?

Pope Francis resumed traveling outside of Italy this year—Iraq, Hungary, Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece—after a quiet year in 2020. While for the moment no destination has been officially announced by the Holy See, I.MEDIA has made a list of possible trips for the pontiff in 2022, ranking them from most to least likely.

Most likely

Hungary: After a brief visit in September 2021 for the closing ceremony of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Pope Francis is expected to return to Hungary in 2022. On October 22, he announced to the Spanish-speaking press that he “has in mind” this destination for the following year.

Congo: Another destination mentioned in the same interview was the Congo, without specifying whether he would visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo or both of the two neighboring countries in central Africa. The last trip to these countries was in 1980, during Pope John Paul II’s first tour of Africa.

East Timor: In the same interview, Pope Francis announced that he plans to settle the “unpaid bill” for this trip, originally scheduled for September 2020 and cancelled due to the pandemic. The last trip by a pope to East Timor was by John Paul II in 1989.

Papua New Guinea: The trip to East Timor is scheduled to be coupled with Pope Francis’ first trip to Oceania, to Papua New Guinea. The last trip by a pontiff to this country was in 1995, during the second visit there by John Paul II.

Likely

Malta: Originally planned for March 2020 and postponed because of the pandemic, then mentioned to be part of the December trip with Cyprus and Greece, and again ruled out for health reasons, the Pope’s trip to Malta could finally take place in 2022. On October 8, Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of the archipelago, who said after his audience that the trip would take place next year. The last papal visit to the country was in 2010, by Benedict XVI.

Kazakhstan: The Argentine pontiff has been officially invited to the Congress of Leaders of Traditional Religions that will take place in October 2022 in the capital city of Nursultan (formerly Astana). The invitation was extended to the head of the Catholic Church by Maulen Ashinbayev, the president of the Kazakh Senate, who came to the Vatican on November 6, 2021. This Muslim country in Central Asia, a former Soviet Republic, was visited by John Paul II in September 2001.

Possible

Canada: On November 27, the Argentine Pope accepted an invitation from the Canadian Conference of Bishops to visit Canada. The trip, if it were to take place, would be part of the “pastoral process of reconciliation with the Aboriginal peoples” that has recently begun. As a first step, the pontiff is to receive a delegation of indigenous people who, after cancelling a planned trip in December, are considering coming to the Vatican in the spring. The last trip of a pope to the maple country goes back 20 years with John Paul II who visited three times, in 1984, 1987 and 2002.

South Sudan: The pontiff, who has repeatedly expressed his desire to visit South Sudan – a trip was already scheduled to take place in 2017 with Anglican Primate Justin Welby – could see his wish come true in 2022. There will never be a “perfect time” but the project is under consideration, assured Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher, who was in the country just before Christmas, from Dec. 21 to 23, 2021, to meet with political and religious leaders. Francis would be the first pope to set foot on the soil of the young state that became independent in 2011.

Lebanon:A country dear to Pope Francis, who hosted an ecumenical summit for the peace of the Lebanese nation in the Vatican on July 1, 2021 and who has repeatedly wished to visit it. This project was envisaged for late 2021-early 2022, but the prospect seems to be receding, as the conditions of stability are not met for an apostolic trip. During his Christmas greetings on December 25, the pontiff expressed concern about the “unprecedented crisis” in Lebanon, “with very worrying economic and social conditions. The country of the Cedars was the last destination of Pope Benedict XVI in September 2012.

Croatia: On February 15, Pope Francis was invited by Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović to visit Croatia. The invitation was already accepted by the pontiff (twice!) before the pandemic led to the cancellation of all papal travel for a year. The last trip by a pope to Croatia was made by Benedict XVI in 2011.

Montenegro: Another Balkan country that the pontiff plans to visit is Montenegro. Pope Francis had received its Prime Minister in December 2019 at the Vatican. The latter extended to the Pope an official invitation to visit his country; the pontiff replied saying, “I will come.”

Finland: On the plane from Athens to Rome on December 6, 2021, Pope Francis mentioned this northern European country with an Evangelical-Lutheran majority in the context of a possible meeting with Patriarch Kirill. The Russian Orthodox leader is expected to visit Finland, a nation where the Orthodox Church has a special status, and which could represent a neutral territory between Rome and Moscow. However, the day after this press conference, Metropolitan Hilarion, in charge of the external relations of the patriarchate, tempered the Pope’s words by underlining that much remained to be done for such a summit meeting. And he excluded any possible meeting on Russian soil.

Bahrain: The Argentine pontiff has been officially invited to Bahrain by King Hamed bin Issa Al Khalifa, announced the advisor for diplomatic affairs of the kingdom at the end of his visit to the Vatican on 25 November 2021. The monarch has made many signs of goodwill recently, including offering the Apostolic Vicariate land for the construction of Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in the region, consecrated by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on December 10. If the trip were to take place, it would be the first time that the island state would host the successor of Peter.

India: Meeting the Argentine pontiff for the first time on October 30, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited him to India. A gesture noticed by a government that maintains complex relations with the Christian communities – which represent less than 5% of the national population, the majority Hindu. If Pope Francis were to visit India, it would be the third trip of a pontiff to the country after the visits of John Paul II in 1986 and 1999.

Spain: A pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is being considered, Pope Francis told Spanish radio on September 1. However, he insisted that, as with his previous trip to Budapest last September and his visit to Strasbourg in 2014, it will not be an official trip to a country but a trip to the city alone.

Unlikely

Ukraine: Pope Francis was officially invited to visit Ukraine by President Volodymyr Zelensky in a telephone conversation on June 29. The geopolitical context seems to make a trip difficult to organize for the moment, the Holy See trying at the same time to strengthen its ties with Russia, where the pontiff has said he wants to visit. The last trip of a pope to Ukraine was in 2001.

France: Continuing his logic of visiting small countries and peripheries, Pope Francis is unlikely to visit the major Western countries – France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom – in the next 12 months. There is no indication that plans for a trip to Marseille, France, which had been mooted for 2021, will come to fruition in 2022.

Very unlikely

North Korea: The first trip of a pope to North Korea has been mentioned several times this year, both by the bishops of South Korea and by South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his visit to the Vatican. While Pope Francis has said he is in favor of the initiative, the Holy See is waiting for a formal invitation from Pyongyang before it can begin preparations for this historic trip.

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Pope Francis
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