Pope to stop by Istiqlal Mosque during first-ever Indonesia visit

Pope Francis waves from the “popemobile” on April 9, 2023 amid a crowd during his tour of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. - AFP File

JAKARTA: Pope Francis is scheduled to stop by Indonesia’s largest Islamic house of worship during his first-ever visit to the country in September.

"The pope is slated to visit Indonesia from Sept. 3 to 6, during which he will visit Istiqlal Mosque on Sept. 5," Nasaruddin Umar, grand imam of the mosque in Central Jakarta, said on Monday as quoted by Kompas.com.

Indonesia is to be the first stop in the pope’s two-week Asia-Oceania tour that includes Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Timor-Leste, the Vatican announced in April.

Thomas Ulun Ismoyo from the Bishop’s Conference of Indonesia (KWI) said last week that the itinerary for Francis’ Indonesia visit was centered in Jakarta, though changes were possible.

The papal visit is organised by the Vatican Embassy in Jakarta and the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, in coordination with a special KWI committee.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had previously invited the 87-year-old pope to the world’s largest Muslim-majority country in an effort to promote religious tolerance.

Muslims comprise around 87 percent of the population of Indonesia, with 8.5 million Catholics representing around 3 percent, according to a 2022 report by the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Nasaruddin said Istiqlal had always promoted religious tolerance.

"We believe that tolerance will foster understanding among Indonesia's diverse citizens," he added.

Pope Francis was originally scheduled to visit Indonesia in 2020, but this trip was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He is the first pope to visit the country in 35 years.

Pope Paul VI visited the country in 1979 and Pope John Paul II in 1989, both of whom were welcomed by then-president Soeharto. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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