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Pope will take his longest trip: to Asia-Oceania in September 

Pope Francis gets on the popemobile during the weekly general audience on April 10, 2024

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 04/12/24

Pope Francis will be visiting Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore from September 2 to 13, 2024.

Pope Francis will visit Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore from September 2 to 13, announced Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office on April 12, 2024. This 45th trip outside Italy since 2013 will be the longest of Francis’ pontificate, and his first trip to Oceania.

The 87-year-old Pontiff is due to leave Rome on September 2 to arrive in Jakarta the following day, September 3. He will remain in the Indonesian capital until September 6, before heading for the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, on the same day. The Pontiff will remain in this country in Oceania until September 9. Other than the capital city he is expected to visit also Vanimo, a small town on the Pacific coast in the far north of the country.

On September 9, he will reach Dili, capital of the small Asian island state of East Timor. He will remain in this predominantly Catholic country until September 11, before traveling to the city-state of Singapore on the same day. He will remain there until September 13, when he will return to Rome. The full program for this major tour will be published at a later date.

Originally scheduled for September 2020, this trip was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Subsequently, Pope Francis has repeatedly stated his intention to keep his promise to visit these countries.

A record-breaking trip

The four countries that Francis will visit have already received papal visits: John Paul II visited Indonesia and East Timor (at the time occupied by Indonesia) in 1989, Papua New Guinea in 1984 and 1995, and Singapore in 1986. Paul VI also visited Indonesia on his last trip in 1970.

This will be the longest trip of Francis’ pontificate, as he will be outside of Rome for 12 days. His longest trip before this was to Cuba and the USA in 2015, where he spent 10 days outside of the Vatican. With this trip the Argentine Pontiff comes close to John Paul II, who spent a total of 13 days in Canada in 1984.

By going to Port Moresby this will also be the Pontiff’s furthest trip, as the Papuan capital is over 14,000 km (around 8,700 miles) from the Vatican, compared with just under 12,000 km (around 7,456 miles) for the previous record, Santiago de Chile, in 2018.

No visit to Vietnam

The trip does not include a stopover in Vietnam, which has never been visited before by a pope. Some statements had suggested in recent months that Vietnam could be included, despite its difficult diplomatic situation with the Vatican. In a video published on April 8, Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, stated that the trip could “perhaps” include a stopover in Vietnam. 

This statement echoed a similar assertion made by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “Foreign Minister,” in an interview with the Jesuit media outlet America last March. Archbishop Gallagher is currently visiting Vietnam, with which the Holy See does not have official diplomatic relations, but with which it has recently become much closer.

The Pope’s health in question

Given the length of the trip, the central question will be whether the 87-year-old Pope will be in good physical condition to travel. He recently has been suffering from respiratory difficulties, 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 2023, the Pontiff had to cancel a planned trip to Dubai, where he was due to attend the United Nations conference on climate change, due to the state of his health.

Follow the Pope’s health here.

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