Pope’s first-ever Indonesia trip to be centred in Jakarta


Pope Francis waves from the central loggia of St. Peter's basilica during the Easter 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and the world) message and blessing as part of the holy week celebrations, in the Vatican, on March 31, 2024. - AFP File

JAKARTA: Pope Francis’ activities during his upcoming visit to Indonesia in September will be centered in Jakarta, a representative from the Indonesian Bishop’s Conference (KWI) has said.

The head of the Catholic Church is slated to visit Indonesia for the first time from Sep 3 to 6 as part of his Asia and Oceania trip, the Vatican announced in April.

The spokesperson for the pope’s visiting committee of the KWI, Thomas Ulun Ismoyo, said various activities were currently being prepared for the pope during his visit to the country.

“We’re still in the planning stage for [the pope’s agenda] but his activities will only be in Jakarta as of now,” he said last week in a video from the KWI.

The September visit is coordinated by the Vatican Embassy in Jakarta and the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, along with the committee from the KWI.

Thomas said the committee was now awaiting the Vatican’s confirmation on the planned activities for the pope in Indonesia, adding that changes could still occur.

A delegation from the Vatican has previously surveyed several locations, Thomas said without disclosing where.

Indonesia has not seen a pope visiting the country in the past 35 years.

Pope Paul VI visited the country in 1979 and Pope John Paul II in 1989, both of whom were greeted by former president Soeharto.

Pope Francis was originally scheduled to come to Indonesia in 2020 but the visit was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo invited the pope again in June 2022 through a message relayed by Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas when he visited the Vatican.

The news of the pope’s trip has been met with joy from members of the Catholic community in the country, who have been waiting for a chance to see him in person since he was elected as the head of the Catholic Church in 2013.

Indonesia is home to the world's biggest Muslim population and its 8.5 million Catholics represent about 3 percent of the total population, according to a 2022 report by the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Thomas of the visiting committee said his team was “grateful” to see that there had been a buzz of excitement and anticipation from the Catholic community in the country, noting several churches had already started a countdown to the pope’s arrival in September.

Thomas said he was well aware that many churches in Indonesia had recited prayers for the pope’s health and well-being.

The 87-year-old pontiff has been using a wheelchair in recent years due to a string of health problems, from strained knee ligaments to a hernia.

Questions about the pope’s health resurfaced after he skipped a major Good Friday service in Rome in late March, prompting prayers for him during the Easter Sunday mass in Indonesia.

The pope’s visiting committee said in a press release that there would be no official merchandise from their end.

After the visit to Indonesia, Francis will travel to Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Singapore. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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