ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis will visit Japan in November of this year. The Pope confirmed the timing of the upcoming trip during remarks to journalists on the flight from Rome to Panama City, Panama, Wednesday.
According to Vatican News, while greeting members of the media aboard the papal plane Jan. 23, Pope Francis responded to a question from a correspondent of the Japanese Kyodo News Agency, who asked if he will visit the country in 2019. “I’ll go to Japan in November. Get ready!” the Pope said.
Francis also expressed his desire to travel to Iraq, but noted that the local bishops have made it clear the country is not yet secure enough for a papal visit.
Interim papal spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti released a statement Jan. 23 to say that a papal trip to Japan is in the “study phase.”
Regarding a possible trip to Iraq, he said, “as was already also affirmed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, on his return from visiting that country last December, the conditions do not exist at present for a visit by the Holy Father.”
Pope Francis is traveling to Panama City for the 15th international World Youth Day. The massive gathering of Catholic youth, which takes place every two or three years, is being held in Central America for the first time this year. Francis will be present at the international event throughout the week.
Before departing for the airport Jan. 23, the Pope greeted a group of young refugees at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta guesthouse.
The young men range from 13 to 17 years old and came from Tajikistan, Egypt, Salvador and Venezuela. All are currently residents of the Pedro Arrupe Center, a part of the Astalli Center of Rome, which assists migrant families and unaccompanied minors.
According to the Astalli Center, the encounter was “an exciting moment in which Pope Francis generously listened to the boys.” The young men also invited the Pope to visit their residence.
In a statement, the Astalli Center expressed its “profound gratitude to the Holy Father for his constant attention to refugees, and especially today, for having given an indelible memory to unaccompanied foreign minors who are too early in their childhood, trying to find their way in Italy, among many difficulties.”