International News

Pope Francis to Visit Thailand and Japan in November

People pray for victims of the 1945 atomic bombing during an Aug. 9, 2015, Mass at the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan. Pope Francis will finally fulfill his desire to be a missionary to Japan when he visits the country, as well as Thailand, Nov. 20-26, 2019, the Vatican announced Sept. 13. (Photo: CNS/Reuters/Toru Hanai)

The Vatican confirmed on Sept. 13 that Pope Francis will visit Thailand and Japan in late November — ”a wish come true” for the Holy Father. 

The Holy See Press Office announced that the pope’s apostolic journey will take place from Nov. 19-26. He will first spend four days in Thailand (Nov.  before heading to Japan. It will be Pope Francis’ fourth trip to Asia during his pontificate. He has visited South Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Philippines before.

In Thailand, Pope Francis will meet with Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, a second cousin of the pope’s. She was born in Argentina and now serves as a missionary in Thailand, Crux reported.  

During the trip, Pope Francis is expected to speak out against nuclear war. The U.S. dropped two nuclear bombs in Japan in 1945 during World War II.

Japan’s government spokesman Yoshihide Suga also said the pope would meet with Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He will visit Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Vatican News said.

The Holy Father’s upcoming visit to Japan is also reportedly a longtime dream come true, from when he was a young Jesuit missionary, Vatican News added.

“Over time, I felt the desire to go as a missionary to Japan, where the Jesuits have always carried out a very important work,” then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote in his 2010 book “El Jesuita,” according to Vatican News.

Since becoming Pope, Francis has also spoke admirably about the Japanese Catholic community and its faithful resilience, despite years of persecution. 

Tokyo Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, S.V.D., spoke exclusively to The Tablet in 2018 about the Catholic Church in Japan, which has 16 dioceses and makes up less than 1 percent (roughly 100,000 Japanese Catholics) of the population. 

“We are very happy because we invited him to visit Japan. We know that he wanted to come since … [the time] when he was working as a Jesuit in Argentina,” Archbishop Kikuchi said.

“He even sent his students to Japan. So we are very happy that he always shows his interest in visiting us,” Archbishop Kikuchi said.

“At the same time, I don’t know what kind of message he will bring to Japan because we need many spiritual inputs to Japanese society. The majority of the people here are not interested in any religion. Many people think that they don’t need God. We need a strong message and strong, spiritual input that we hope the Holy Father will bring.”

St. John Paul II was the last pope to visit Japan in 1981, and the last to visit Thailand in 1984.