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Pope Francis to travel to Indonesia, Singapore, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea
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Pope Francis will travel to the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore later this year, the Vatican announced Friday.

The 11-day multi-country voyage from September 2 to 13 will be the longest international trip of Francis’ papacy.

The trip announcement comes after the 87-year-old pope has slowed down his travel schedule in recent months as health issues have forced him to cancel some public appearances. Francis, who often uses a wheelchair, has not traveled internationally since September 2023.

Indonesia

Pope Francis’ first stop will be Indonesia, home to the largest Muslim population in the world. The country's 229 million Muslims make up more than 12% of the global Muslim population. Nearly all of Indonesia's Muslims are Sunni.

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta welcomed the news that the pope will visit Indonesia from Sept. 3 to 6.

“Catholics throughout Indonesia want to shake hands with the pope one by one, but we all know that is impossible," Suharyo said in a video message announcing the visit.

More than 29 million Christians live in Indonesia, 7 million of which are Catholic. Pope St. Paul VI visited the country in 1970 and Pope St. John Paul II traveled there in 1989.

“Hopefully, with this visit, Indonesian Catholics will become more courageous in voicing the truth and become an example for people of other religions in terms of truly religious life, namely love above all, as the pope always emphasizes," the Indonesian cardinal told UCA News.

Papua New Guinea

Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Singapore, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea after John Paul II.

The pope will visit the cities of Port Moresby and Vanimo in Papua New Guinea from September 6 to 9.

Papua New Guinea is a country of nearly nine million people on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The other side of the island consists of two Indonesian provinces. Papua New Guinea is a nation of considerable cultural diversity, comprised of hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to the island with 851 indigenous languages spoken in the country.

Nearly all Papua New Guinea citizens are Christians, and 26% of the population is Catholic.

East Timor

The pope’s next stop on his Southeast Asia tour will be Dili, the capital city of East Timor from September 9 to 11.

East Timor is a small country on the island of Timor. It gained independence from Indonesia in 1999, following decades of bloody conflict as the region vied for national sovereignty.

More than 97% of East Timor’s population of 1 million people are Catholic. It is one of only a few Catholic-majority countries in Southeast Asia.

A Catholic bishop from East Timor, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, received the Nobel Peace Prize together with the country’s second president, Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, in 1996 for their efforts to reach a peaceful and just end to fighting in the country.

The Vatican confirmed in 2022 that Belo has been under disciplinary restrictions since September 2020 due to accusations of sexual abuse of minors.

Singapore

Pope Francis will conclude his trip with a visit to the island country of Singapore from September 11 to 13.

Singapore has the highest GDP per capita in Asia and the second-highest population density of any country in the world. The Archdiocese of Singapore has a diverse population of 395,000 Catholics, offering Masses predominantly in English, Chinese, Tamil, as well as other languages from Southeast Asia.

Nearly 75% of Singapore’s population is ethnic Chinese, according to the 2020 census, which also lists 13% of the population as ethnic Malay and 9% ethnic Indian.

The U.S. Report on International Religious Freedom states that among ethnic Indians in Singapore, 57.3% are Hindu, 23.4% Muslim, and 12.6% Christian. The ethnic Chinese population includes Buddhists (40.4%), Christians (21.6%), Taoists (11.6%), and 25.7% with no religion.

Pope Francis has long expressed interest in visiting Indonesia and other neighboring island nations in Southeast Asia. A papal trip to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the pope’s full schedule for this apostolic journey will be published at a later date.

This article was originally published on Catholic News Agency.


Author Name

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.

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