Japanese visit on cards for Pope

A Japanese visit is a possibility for Pope Francis next year.

If he goes, it will be only the second time a Catholic pontiff has visited visit Japan. St Pope John Paul II visited Japan in 1981.

Francis made the announcement of his proposed visit to members of the “Tensho Kenoh Shisetsu Kenshokai” association he met with on Wednesday.

“… I would like to announce my desire to visit Japan next year. Let’s hope I can do it,” he told them.

Francis is said to have long expressed his admiration for Japanese culture and history.

He is said to have hoped to become a missionary in Japan after he was ordained a priest – a desire his superiors quashed, citing his frail health at the time.

During his papacy, Francis has repeatedly spoken in admiration of the missionary work of his Jesuit order to bring Christianity to Japan in the 16th century.

He has also often spoken of the witness of the martyrs who suffered from the anti-Christian persecution that ensued.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is known to have extended an invitation on several occasions for Francis to visit.

He has suggested Francis could visit Hiroshima, the site of US atomic bombing at the end of the Second World War, to raise awareness about the continuing dangers of nuclear weapons.

Christianity is a religious minority in Japan, where those who identify with an organised religion are primarily Shinto or Buddhist.

According to the Vatican’s 2016 statistics, the latest available, there are 539,000 Catholics in Japan.


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