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Pope’s visit to Indonesia, Singapore, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea in September

By Radio Veritas Asia (RVA)

Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to Indonesia, Singapore, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea is mostly to be in early September, says Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations—commonly known as its foreign minister.

He revealed this to America’s Vatican correspondent, Gerard O’Connell, on the morning of March 25 in the Secretariat of State in the Vatican.

The papal “visit to Indonesia, Singapore, Timor Leste, and Papua New Guinea has now been moved to early September,” reported America, a monthly Catholic magazine published by the Jesuits of the United States.

According to Archbishop Gallagher, Vietnam could be a part of the papal pilgrimage along with other Asian countries.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope was supposed to visit Indonesia and Timor-Leste in 2020. However, the visit was delayed following the pandemic. Then, Vatican sources said the visit would take place in August this year.

A few months ago, a Vatican delegation went to East Timor to inspect the ongoing preparations for the papal visit.

97% of Timor-Leste’s 1.4 million residents identify as Catholic, making it the most Catholic country in Asia.

In March this year, the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to Timor-Leste, Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, confirmed Pope Francis visit to the country is scheduled for 2024.

However, of the 10 million people living in Papua New Guinea, just 26 percent identify as Catholic. Francis has long harbored travel ambitions to both tiny and far-flung nations in line with his idea—going to the peripheries.

Conversely, Indonesia boasts the highest number of Muslims worldwide, and Singapore has been urging the Vatican to visit the city-state. Likely, Francis might also visit Vietnam this year. The relationship between Vietnam and the Holy See has improved.

The Vietnamese government granted the Holy See permission last year to establish an office and send a resident representative. This was the first time this had happened since the Vietnam War ended.

The pope and the president of Vietnam met in July of last year, and the president announced in December that he had written to Pope Francis formally requesting a visit.

When the reporter from America asked Archbishop Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, if the Pope would include Vietnam in his September itinerary, the prelate said, “It could be.” Archbishop Gallagher will visit Vietnam in April on a diplomatic mission.

Some claim that Francis would welcome the president’s offer, but the Vatican would prefer that the Pope visit following the establishment of formal diplomatic relations.

If the Vietnamese government wants it, diplomatic relations could be established swiftly, a senior Vatican official said. This was the case with Myanmar when Francis traveled there in 2017, after forging ties there months earlier.

This year, the Pope will travel to Belgium and Argentina, his native country, in addition to Asian nations.

Francis has not yet disclosed his plans, although French President Emmanuel Macron has requested that he travel to Paris for the reopening of the renowned Notre-Dame Cathedral on December 8, 2024.

Earlier, Pope Francis was reportedly to visit at the end of August four countries in Asia—Indonesia, Singapore, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea. Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has taken 44 visits outside of Italy, visiting 61 nations.


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