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Gerard O’ConnellApril 12, 2024
Pope Francis begins his weekly general audience with a prayer in a windy St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Singapore from Sept. 2 to 13.

The news came in a statement from Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See’s press office, who said the pope “will undertake an Apostolic Journey” to these four countries at “the invitation of the respective Heads of State and Church Authorities.”

It will be Francis’ 45th foreign trip since becoming pope on March 13, 2013, and the longest he has undertaken to date—a total of 12 days. He has already visited 61 countries.

This would be a demanding trip, even for a younger man. Francis turned 87 in December and has had mobility issues in recent years, but he is determined to travel.

Mr. Bruni only gave a basic outline of the papal journey and said a more detailed program would be provided later.

Pope Francis will visit Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia with a population of around 11 million people, Sept. 3 to 6. Indonesia is a country of almost 280 million people with the largest Muslim population in the world. There are more than eight million Catholics in the country. He will be the third pope to visit the country. Paul VI went there in 1970; John Paul II went there in 1989 and also visited Dili in Timor-Leste, then under Indonesian occupation.

From Jakarta, he will travel to Papua New Guinea, a country in Oceania with a population of 10.5 million people, 32 percent of whom are Catholic. He will stay there from Sept. 6 to 9 and visit two cities: Port Moresby, the capital, and Vanimo, a city in the north-westernmost part of Papua New Guinea on a peninsula close to the Indonesian border. He will be the second pope to visit Papua New Guinea after John Paul II, who traveled there in 1984.

He will fly from there to Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, from Sept. 9 to 11. Timor-Leste is the most Catholic country in Asia—97 percent of its 1.4 million population is Catholic, and the people there have long wanted Francis to visit. He will be the first pope to travel to the country since it gained independence in 2002.

He will conclude this long journey with a visit to Singapore, an island country and city-state in southeast Asia, from Sept. 11 to 13. Singapore has a population of six million people, of whom around 395,000 are Catholic, about 3 percent of the population. He will be the second pope to visit there; John Paul II visited in 1986.

Francis has looked especially to Asia since the beginning of his pontificate. Following in the footsteps of the first Jesuits, he identified the continent, where two-thirds of humanity lives, as a priority for evangelization, a part of the world that could offer a new springtime to the church. He has already made five journeys to Asia. The countries he has visited to date include South Korea (2014); Sri Lanka and the Philippines (2015); Myanmar and Bangladesh (2017); Thailand and Japan (2019); Kazakhstan (2022); and Mongolia (2023).

Vietnam is not listed among the countries that Francis will visit on this trip to Asia and Oceania, though he has received an invitation from the president of the country and from its bishops’ conference, but it is known that Francis wants to go there, too, and some sources think he could do so in 2025.

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