Pope Francis expected to visit Singapore in September as part of Asia-Pacific tour: Catholic media

Pope Francis expected to visit Singapore in September as part of Asia-Pacific tour: Catholic media
Pope Francis' tour, which was earlier expected to take place in August, will mark only the second papal visit to Singapore.
PHOTO: Reuters

SINGAPORE - Pope Francis is expected to visit Singapore in September, almost 40 years after the late Pope John Paul II drew thousands of Roman Catholics during a brief stopover in 1986.

The de facto Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, speaking on March 26 to the America magazine’s Vatican correspondent Gerald O’Connell, said the pontiff plans to travel to Indonesia, Singapore, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea in 2024.

America is a monthly Catholic magazine founded in 1909 and published by the Jesuits of the US.

News of a papal visit to the region was first reported by two Catholic media outlets in January – America and EWTN Vatican. The latter, in an article outlining the Pope’s agenda for 2024, reported that “plans are under way” for a 10-day visit to Indonesia, Singapore, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

The tour, which was earlier scheduled for August, will mark only the second papal visit to Singapore. When Pope John Paul II visited, he stayed just five hours in the country.

If health permits, Pope Francis, 87, is expected to spend at least a day in Singapore. A possible visit to Vietnam is also under consideration, the America magazine report added.

The Straits Times has approached the Archdiocese of Singapore for more information.

In January 2022, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong was granted a brief audience with Pope Francis during a working visit to the Vatican City. His visit was to reaffirm bilateral ties with the city-state and came a month after the Roman Catholic Church marked its 200th anniversary in Singapore.

On March 31, Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas confirmed that Pope Francis would visit Indonesia on Sept 3. Outgoing Indonesian President Joko Widodo reportedly invited the pontiff to visit Indonesia – which has the world’s largest Muslim population, numbering about 242 million – in June 2022, as part of efforts to promote religious tolerance.

However, the Pope’s ailing health has cast a pall on his Asia travel plans. On March 29, he withdrew abruptly from the Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum. The last-minute decision was an attempt “to preserve his health” ahead of his Easter obligations, said the Vatican.

He presided at the Easter Vigil service on March 30, and on Easter Sunday, March 31, read his twice-annual Urbi et Orbi message and gave blessings from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to a crowd of several thousands.

Urbi et Orbi means to the city and world in Latin.

There are about 395,000 Roman Catholics in Singapore, according to the 2020 census.

In 1986, Pope John Paul II knelt and kissed the tarmac when he touched down at Changi Airport – a traditional gesture marking the start of a state visit.

Then Singapore Archbishop Gregory Yong and then Vatican Ambassador to Singapore, Archbishop Renato Martino, as well as then Communications Minister Yeo Ning Hong boarded the plane to receive him.

After meeting then President Wee Kim Wee and then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Istana, he presided over a mass attended by about 70,000 people at the former National Stadium.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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