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Pope Francis’ Indonesia visit to ‘strengthen message of tolerance, unity, and world peace’
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Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni Church, an Indian-Mughal style Catholic church in Medan, Indonesia. | Credit: MarlonH/Shutterstock

Pope Francis’ visit to Indonesia later this year has now been announced by the Vatican, and the Indonesian government has confirmed that the country will be the first destination in the 87-year-old pontiff’s apostolic journey to the Asia Pacific region, scheduled to take place Sept. 2–13. 

The anticipated 11-day international trip will be the longest voyage of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Following his visit to Indonesia, the Holy Father will travel to Papua New Guinea Sept. 6–9 and East Timor Sept. 9–11, concluding his journey in Singapore Sept. 11–13. 

Following an official invitation of President Joko Widodo on March 25, an official statement from Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs states: “The visit of Pope Francis to Indonesia holds significant importance to the Indonesian people, not only for Catholics but also for all religious communities. The visit is also expected to strengthen the message of tolerance, unity, and world peace.”

The Catholic Church is currently the third-largest religious community in the country with approximately 8.5 million members, who account for 3% of the country’s total population.

Although Indonesia does not have an established state religion, 87% of the population is Muslim, making it the most populous Muslim country in the world. Subsequently, Catholicism is one of six official religions recognized in the country alongside Islam, Protestantism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. 

Following the announcement of the pope’s upcoming visit to Indonesia, Cardinal Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, archbishop of Jakarta and president of the Indonesian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, reiterated the significance of building religious tolerance, peace, and unity — particularly among Christians and Muslims — within the country. 

“The national mosque, called Istiqlal, meaning liberty, or freedom, lies just in front of the Catholic cathedral in Jakarta,” Hardjoatmodjo said in a video message. “The national mosque was intentionally built at this site as a symbol of harmony.”

Benedictus Nuwa, an Indonesian Claretian missionary currently studying interreligious dialogue at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, believes Pope Francis’ visit to his homeland will bring a “message of peace, social justice, freedom of religion, and worship” and be key in strengthening the “relationship and dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.” 

Though Nuwa expressed pride in the ethnic and religious diversity present in his country, he also expressed concern about the discrimination and persecution against minorities occurring in parts of the country. “There are still groups that are intolerant to differences,” he said. “The Indonesian people in general and the government in particular must not close their eyes to these facts.” 

Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Indonesia will mark the third papal journey to Indonesia. Paul VI visited Indonesia in 1970 followed by St. John Paul II in 1989.


Author Name

Kristina Millare is a freelance journalist with a professional communications background in the humanitarian aid and development sector, news journalism, entertainment marketing, politics and government, business and entrepreneurship.


 

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