By Melissa Butz
Just days after Pope Francis returned from Africa, on September 13 the Holy See Press Office confirmed an upcoming papal trip to East Asia, from Nov. 19-26.
Pope Francis will spend three days in Thailand, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Vatican’s mission to Siam in 1669. His motto for the country is “Christs Disciples… Missionary Disciples.”
Afterward, he’ll be traveling to three Japanese cities: Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The theme for this trip is “Protect all Life.”
It’s been Pope Francis’s dream to go to Japan since he was a young Jesuit. However, sickness blocked him from leaving.
Pope Francis had hinted at the trip last year, when he met a group from Japan.
“And taking advantage of your visit, I would like to announce my willingness to visit Japan next year. I hope I can do so,” he told the group during their meeting.
As he has asked many times, he will likely call for peace, justice and nuclear disarmament within the country.
“Weapons of mass destruction, particularly atomic, create nothing more than a false sense of security and cannot constitute the basis of peaceful coexistence between members of the human Family, Pope Francis said.
As of 2018, there are 379,975 Catholics in Thailand, a figure that represents 0.46 percent of the total population of 69 million. Japan has similar numbers, with just under .5 percent of its population being Catholic, equaling around 500,000 people.
It will be the Holy Father’s fourth trip to Asia. He will be the second pope ever to step foot in these countries, after John Paul II visited Thailand in 1984 and Japan in 1981.