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Pope could go to Asia-Pacific at end of summer 2024

Pope-Francis-boards-his-plane-heading-to-the-World-Youth-Day-in-Lisbon-August-02-2023

ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Isabella H. de Carvalho - I.Media - published on 04/04/24

Although the Vatican has not confirmed the trip, local authorities and the Pope himself have mentioned him visiting several countries in Asia-Pacific.

Although there is no official confirmation from the Holy See, two Indonesian ministers this week have told news outlets that Pope Francis is planning a trip to the country. In an interview with America magazine published in March 2024, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s “Foreign Minister,” said that the Pope was planning to visit Indonesia, Singapore, Timor Leste, and Papua New Guinea in early September. 

Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi, told Reuters on April 3, 2024, that the Pontiff “plans to visit Indonesia” and that the country was “currently preparing everything” but she did not specify dates. UCANews reported a couple of days earlier that the Minister of Religious Affairs, Yaqut Cholil Quomas, said in a March 30 statement that the Pontiff is scheduled to visit the Southeast Asian country on September 3. 

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, Archbishop of Jakarta, told UCANews that the Indonesian Bishops’ conference will publish an official announcement on April 8. Other local media outlets from the countries in Pope Francis’ Asia-Pacific tour, such as Singapore, Timor Leste or Papua New Guinea, also reported recently about preparations for a papal visit this summer.

Not the first announcements

Pope Francis himself, in an interview with Italian daily La Stampa in January 2024, said that he planned to go to Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia at the end of the summer. He has mentioned visiting these countries several times in the past years, as a trip had been in the works for 2020 but had to be cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. Additionally in January 2024, multiple Church and political representatives in Papua New Guinea had also confirmed the Pope was expected to visit over the summer. 

The Vatican is yet to confirm any of these plans, and it is also to be seen whether Pope Francis will be in a good physical condition to make such a long trip. He recently has been suffering from ill health causing him to not be able to read speeches at certain moments or having to cancel his attendance at certain events, such as the Stations of the Cross on Holy Friday, March 29.

In December the Pontiff had to cancel his trip to Dubai to attend the UN’s climate change conference a couple of days before he was due to leave because of his poor health. 

Vietnam too?

In the same aforementioned March 2024 interview with America magazine, Archbishop Gallagher said that Vietnam could possibly be added as another destination in this trip. The Vietnamese bishops’ conference said in a statement published on April 3 that Archbishop Gallagher will be travelling to the country from April 9 to 14, 2024. In the statement it says that this will be the first time that a Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States visits the country, as the Vatican does not yet have official diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

However, Archbishop Gallagher’s trip can be seen as a further step in the improvement of bilateral relations between the two states in recent years. In July 2023 they reached an agreement to have a “resident pontifical representative” in Vietnam, who was then appointed in December 2023. 

According to the media outlet AsiaNews on December 15, 2023, President Vo Van Thuong officially invited the pontiff to visit his country. Should a trip materialize, Francis would be the first Pope to visit Vietnam. On his return flight from Mongolia on September 4, the Pontiff estimated that there would “indeed be a visit” to Vietnam in the years to come, however he envisaged that it could be carried out by “John XXIV” – the imagined name he often uses to speak about his successor.

Tags:
IndonesiaPope FrancisVietnam
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