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Pope Francis to visit Hungary in April

February 27, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1

Pope Francis in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 27, 2023 / 05:50 am (CNA).
The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis will visit Hungary for the second time, from April 28-30.According to the F… […]

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Pope Francis’ trip to Africa rescheduled for February 2023

December 1, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 28, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 04:41 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has rescheduled his trip to the African countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for Jan. 31-Feb. 5, 2023, the Vatican announced on Thursday.

The visit was originally to take place in the beginning of July 2022, but was postponed by the Vatican due to problems with Pope Francis’ knee. The 85-year-old pope apologized in June for having to put off the trip, and vowed to reschedule it “as soon as possible.”

Francis will spend the first leg of the trip, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, in the Congolese city of Kinshasa, before visiting the South Sudanese capital, Juba, Feb. 3-5.

An updated schedule released by the Vatican Dec. 1 showed that the pope no longer plans to visit the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, part of the original trip schedule.

The logo and motto for the trip were announced in March 2022.

Francis’ visit to South Sudan will be a “pilgrimage of peace,” and take place together with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.

Pope Francis will be the first pope to visit South Sudan, which became the world’s newest country when it declared independence from the Republic of the Sudan on July 9, 2011. The nation in east-central Africa has a population of 11 million people, around 37% of whom are Catholic.

In 2019, Pope Francis brought South Sudanese leaders together at the Vatican for a “spiritual retreat” aimed at resolving their differences.

He also celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Congolese immigrants in 2019, marking the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy of Rome.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a Central African country of around 90 million people, roughly half of whom are Catholic. Pope John Paul II visited the country, then known as Zaire, in 1980.

After reluctantly bowing out of his own scheduled trip to Africa in July, Pope Francis sent the Vatican’s second-highest-ranking official in his place, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The pope also celebrated a Mass for Rome’s Congolese community in St. Peter’s Basilica on July 3, the day he was due to offer Mass in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


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Pope Francis: Bahrain trip ‘a new step’ in Christian-Muslim dialogue

November 9, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter’s Square, Nov. 9, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 9, 2022 / 03:34 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday his trip to the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain was a new step on the journey to create “fraternal alliances” between Christians and Muslims.

The pope spoke about his Nov. 3-6 visit to Bahrain, a small, overwhelmingly Muslim country in the Persian Gulf, during his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 9.

“The journey to Bahrain should not be seen as an isolated episode,” he said. “It was part of a process initiated by Saint John Paul II when he went to Morocco.”

This is why, he continued, “the first visit of a pope in Bahrain represents a new step on the journey between Christian and Muslim believers — not to confuse things or water down the faith, but to create fraternal alliances in the name of our Father Abraham, who was a pilgrim on earth under the merciful gaze of the one God of Heaven, the God of peace.”

“And why do I say that dialogue does not water down [the faith]?” Francis said. “Because to dialogue you have to have your own identity, you have to start from your identity. If you do not have identity, you cannot dialogue, because you do not understand what you are either.”

The Papal Swiss Guard at St. Peter's Square, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
The Papal Swiss Guard at St. Peter’s Square, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The motto of Pope Francis’ visit to Bahrain was “Peace on earth to people of goodwill.” The trip included encounters with government officials, Muslim leaders, and the small Catholic community, including a Mass with around 30,000 people in Bahrain’s national soccer stadium.

The small Christian minority in Bahrain is mostly made up of immigrants, especially from India and the Philippines.

More than 70% of the total population — 1.5 million — is Muslim, while there are only about 161,000 Catholics living in the country, according to 2020 Vatican statistics.

Pope Francis said Wednesday it was “marvelous” to see the many Christian immigrants in Bahrain.

“The brothers and sisters in the faith, whom I met in Bahrain, truly live ‘on a journey,’” he said. “For the most part, they are immigrant laborers who, far from home, discover their roots in the People of God and their family within the larger family of the Church. And they move ahead joyfully, in the certainty that the hope of God does not disappoint.”

The pope pointed out that the Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands, which “helps us understand that it is not necessary to live by isolating ourselves, but by coming closer” — something which aids peace.

He said “dialogue is the ‘oxygen of peace,’” not only in a nation but also in a family: Dialogue can help bring peace to a husband and wife who are fighting, for example.

Throughout his visit to Bahrain, Francis said, he heard several times the desire to increase encounters and strengthen the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the country.

He recalled a custom in that part of the world to place one’s hand on the heart when greeting another person. “I did this too,” he said, “to make room inside me for the person I was meeting.”

“For without this welcome, dialogue remains empty, illusory, it remains on the level of an idea rather than reality,” he said.

Francis encouraged Catholics to have “open hearts,” not closed, hard hearts, and said he would like to transmit the “genuine, simple, and beautiful joy” of the Christian priests, religious, and lay people he met in Bahrain.

“Meeting each other and praying together, we felt we were of one heart and one soul,” he said.

At the beginning of the general audience, Pope Francis drew attention to two “courageous” children who had approached the platform where he was sitting.

These children “didn’t ask permission, they didn’t say, ‘Ah, I’m afraid’ — they came directly,” he said. “They gave us an example of how we are to be with God, with the Lord: go for it.”

“He is always waiting for us,” he continued. “It did me good to see the trust of these two children: it was an example for all of us. This is how we must always approach the Lord: with freedom.”