Pope will take longest trip of papacy


The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will visit Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Singapore in September, 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, East Timor; 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 and even excursions to local parishes.

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 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 11-year papacy. It will bring the Argentine Jesuit to the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, as well as the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, where the Catholic church wields enormous influence.

There is also a chance of another leg to the trip being added later: This week, the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, was in Vietnam and discussed a papal visit, Vatican News reported, without providing details.

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 all religious communities. The visit is 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.

East Timor, 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 East Timor’s population is Catholic.

The visit to East Timor will likely reignite attention over a clergy sex abuse scandal involving its revered independence hero and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The Vatican confirmed in 2022 that it had sanctioned Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo following allegations that he sexually abused boys during the 1990s. Belo is believed to now be living in Portugal.

Francis will be the first pope to visit Papua New Guinea since St. John Paul II went there in 1984. The country, in a strategically important part of the South Pacific, has struggled with tribal violence and civil unrest. — AP

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

SINGAPORE

   

Next In Aseanplus News

Cryptoverse: Miners trudge through post-halving world
Asean News Headlines at 10pm on Tuesday (May 28, 2024)
Sze Fei-Izzuddin moved on but Pearly-Thinaah stumbled
Singapore to work closely with Malaysia in support of its Asean chairmanship in 2025
Philippines deploys river rangers in battle against plastic
Missing teenager found dead on Broga Hill
Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognise a Palestinian state as EU rift with Israel widens
HK-born Indian actor Q Bobo enjoys durian with Philip Keung in Malaysia: 'Paradise for food hunters'
New Novavax Covid-19 vaccine available for free at selected clinics in Singapore
At least 17 are killed when a stone quarry collapses in India’s northeast; 12 others remain missing

Others Also Read