The Pope will travel to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Singapore in the longest trip of his pontificate


Vatican says Pope Francis will visit Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Singapore in September

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will visit Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Singapore in September, the Vatican announced Friday, confirming the longest trip of his pontificate that is sure to test his health , physical strength and mobility.

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

While the pope is able to hold a strict schedule of meetings at the Vatican and even tour local dioceses, Francis’ health has become a growing source of concern and speculation.

Francis, who had a partial lung removed as a young man, developed severe bronchitis late last year and had to cancel a planned trip to Dubai. He suffered from respiratory problems throughout the winter and had to cut back on Holy Week activities to conserve energy for Easter.

Francis, who has also been using a wheelchair for nearly two years due to bad knee ligaments, said traveling has become increasingly difficult.

However, the 11-day trip will be the longest of Francis’ pontificate, adding several days to some of his long-distance trips to the Americas early in his 11-year pontificate. It will bring Argentinian Jesuits to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, and to the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, where the Catholic Church wields outsized influence.

Another leg of the trip could be added later: Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher was in Vietnam this week to discuss the papal visit, Vatican News reported, without providing details.

In a statement announcing the visit, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the visit, recalling that it was originally scheduled for 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a 2022 report from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, there are approximately 242 million Muslims and 29 million Christians in Indonesia, of which 8.5 million are Catholics.

Timor-Leste, with a current population of about 1.2 million, is the only predominantly Christian country in Southeast Asia besides the Philippines. According to the 2015 census, 97.6% of East Timor’s population is Catholic.

The visit to East Timor is likely to draw renewed attention to its clergy sex abuse scandal involving its revered independence hero and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The Vatican confirmed in 2022 that it had imposed sanctions on Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo over accusations of sexually abusing local boys in the 1990s. Bello is now believed to be living in Portugal.

Francis will be the first pope to visit Papua New Guinea since Saint John Paul II in 1984. The country, located in a strategically important region of the South Pacific, has struggled with tribal violence and civil unrest.

John Paul also visited Singapore in 1986. The country now has 395,000 Catholics, and Francis appointed its archbishop as Singapore’s first cardinal in 2022.

In a statement welcoming the visit, Cardinal William Ng said the visit “will bring renewed enthusiasm to all Catholics in Singapore, uniting them in faith and mission, especially in these most challenging times.”

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


Karmini is from Jakarta, Indonesia.


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