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Pope Francis says he will travel to Mongolia

April 15, 2023 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square on March 22, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Apr 15, 2023 / 06:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that he plans to visit Mongolia, the world’s most sparsely populated sovereign country.

In off-the-cuff remarks to employees of the Italian airline company that staffs the papal plane for his international trips, the pope said that he will travel to Mongolia after his scheduled trips to Hungary and France in the coming months.

“In two weeks’ time, God willing, I will leave for my 41st pilgrimage, by going to visit Hungary. And then there will be Marseille, then Mongolia,” Francis said at a Vatican audience with ITA Airways on April 14.

An apostolic journey to Mongolia would make Pope Francis the first pope to visit the Asian country that shares a 2,880-mile border with China, its most significant economic partner.

Mongolia has a population of about 1,300 Catholics in a country of more than 3 million people.

The first modern mission to Mongolia was in 1922 and was entrusted to the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But under a communist government, religious expression was soon thereafter suppressed, until 1992. Mongolia’s first native priest was ordained in 2016.

Last year, Pope Francis named an Italian who had served as a missionary in Mongolia for nearly 20 years as the world’s youngest cardinal. Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, 48, is the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, which serves the entire country.

Roughly the size of Alaska, Mongolia has 5 people per square mile. About 30% of its population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. Bordering Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia is also the second largest landlocked country in the world with the vast Gobi Desert covering one-third of its territory.

Pope Francis first spoke about the possibility of traveling to Mongolia in February during an in-flight press conference on his return trip from South Sudan. He told reporters at the time that “there is a possibility from Marseille to fly to Mongolia.”

Pope Francis meets with ITA Airways staff at the Vatican on April 14, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with ITA Airways staff at the Vatican on April 14, 2023. Vatican Media

What countries will Pope Francis visit in 2023?

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Budapest, Hungary at the end of this month from April 28-30 in what will be his second visit to the central European country in three years.

The pope is also expected to travel to Portugal during the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon taking place August 1-6.

The French Diocese of Marseille announced this week that Pope Francis will preside over a Mass on Sept. 23 as part of a meeting of Mediterranean bishops in the port city in southern France.

Due to the pope’s recent comments, it is expected that a potential papal trip to Mongolia would depart directly from Marseille.

Pope Francis has also said that he hopes to travel to India next year in response to an invitation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


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It’s official: Pope Francis will travel to Cyprus and Greece in December

November 5, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Leronymos look at the sea from Lesbos on April 16, 2016. / L’Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Nov 5, 2021 / 06:40 am (CNA).

The Vatican officially announced on Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Cyprus and Greece on Dec. 2-6.

The four-day trip to the two Mediterranean countries will include stops in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, Athens, the Greek capital, and the Greek island of Lesbos.

The pope will visit Cyprus on Dec. 2-4 before flying to Athens on Dec. 4 and Lesbos on Dec. 5.

It will be Pope Francis’ second trip to Lesbos, also known as Lesvos, an island that is home to the infamous Moria refugee camp that was damaged in a fire last year.

The pope made a daylong visit in 2016 together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians, to draw attention to the plight of migrants on the island.

The logo for the pope’s apostolic journey to Greece is “a ship traversing the troubled waters of our world, with the cross of Christ as its mast and its sails driven by the wind of the Holy Spirit,” a statement released by the Vatican on Nov. 5 said.

The official logo of Pope Francis’ visit to Greece on Dec. 4-6, 2021. Vatican Media.
The official logo of Pope Francis’ visit to Greece on Dec. 4-6, 2021. Vatican Media.

“As Greece feels the effects of the pandemic and the recent financial crisis, the motto expresses the hope that the Pope’s visit will bring a ray of light for the future of Greece, a country of deeply rooted faith and an illustrious past,” the Vatican statement said.

Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Cyprus after Benedict XVI traveled to the Mediterranean island in 2010.

The official theme of the pope’s trip to Cyprus is “Comforting each other in faith”. It was inspired by the name of the Apostle Barnabas, which can mean son of consolation, according to the Vatican.

The official logo of Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus on Dec. 2-4, 2021. Vatican Media.
The official logo of Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus on Dec. 2-4, 2021. Vatican Media.

Both Cyprus and Greece have populations that are majority Greek Orthodox. Around 72% of people in Cyprus are Christians and 25% of the population is Muslim, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Mediterranean countries are also linked as St. Paul traveled to both places. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.

Today, Cyprus has about 11,000 Catholics, according to its national statistical service, and Greece is home to about 50,000 Catholics (0.5% of the population).

The apostolic journey will be the pope’s third trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. His previous trips were to Iraq in March and Hungary and Slovakia in September.

The 84-year-old pope, who underwent colon surgery in July, has expressed his desire to travel to Canada, Congo, Hungary, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor in the coming year.