Pope will travel to Indonesia, PNG, Timor-Leste and S'pore in longest trip of papacy

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis (pic) will visit Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Singapore in September, the Vatican announced Friday (April 12), confirming the longest trip of Francis’ papacy that is sure to test his health, stamina and mobility.

The Vatican confirmed the Sept 2-13 visit, saying the 87-year-old pope would visit Jakarta, Indonesia; Port Moresby and Vanimo, Papua New Guinea; Dili, Timor-Leste; and Singapore. Further details will be announced later.

Francis' health has become a source of increasing concern and speculation, even though the pontiff is able to carry on with a rigorous schedule of meetings at the Vatican.

Francis, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, had to cancel a planned visit to Dubai late last year after he came down with a bad case of bronchitis. He suffered from respiratory problems all winter and had to curtail his participation in Holy Week events to save his energy for Easter.

Francis has also been using a wheelchair for nearly two years because of bad knee ligaments, and has said that travelling has become increasingly more difficult.

And yet at 11 days, the trip would be the longest of Francis’ papacy, outpacing by a few days some of his long trips to the Americas early on in his papacy. It will bring the Argentine Jesuit to the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, as well as the former Portuguese colony of Timor-Leste, where the Catholic Church wields enormous influence.

In a statement announcing the visit, the Indonesian foreign ministry welcomed the visit and recalled that it had originally been scheduled for 2020 but was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The visit of Pope Francis to Indonesia holds significant importance to the Indonesian people, not only for Catholics but also for all religious communities. The visit is also expected to strengthen the message of tolerance, unity and world peace,” the statement said.

Indonesia is home to roughly 242 million Muslims and 29 million Christians - 8.5 million of whom are Catholics - according to a 2022 report by the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Timor-Leste, which today has a population of about 1.2 million people, is South-East Asia’s only predominantly Christian nation with the exception of the Philippines. According to the 2015 census, 97.6% of Timor-Leste's population is Catholic.

The Vatican has confirmed only one other papal trip this year - to Belgium to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s Catholic university. Francis has also said he wants to return to his native Argentina, but no plans or dates have been announced. - AP

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Indonesia , Pope Francis , visit , Timor-Leste , Singapore , PNG


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