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Pope says Asia trip is top priority

Plan revealed in conversation with journalists

<p>Pope Francis (file picture: Wikimedia Commons)</p>

Pope Francis (file picture: Wikimedia Commons)

  • Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
  • Vatican City
  • July 31, 2013
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Pope Francis could travel to Asia in 2014, after receiving invitations from the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The Argentine pontiff confided his plans to journalists who were flying with him back to Italy with him after his trip to Brazil.

In this widely reported encounter, he touched upon controversial subjects such as homosexuality, women priests and reforming the scandal-ridden Vatican Bank.

But he also disclosed his plans for international travel in coming months, saying a trip to the Middle East and one to East Asia are his top priorities.

“A trip to Asia must be made, because Pope Benedict didn't have time to go to Asia and it is important,” he told the reporters.

“I think it is possible to go to Asia, even if everything is still up in the air,” he added. “I have received invitations to go to Sri Lanka and to the Philippines.”

Vatican sources speaking on condition of anonymity cautioned that no decision have been taken yet. An official announcement of a papal trip is usually made by the local bishops' conference of the country where the pope is traveling.

The Philippines officially invited Pope Francis immediately after his inauguration Mass last March.

Pope Francis also said he wants to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, to commemorate the first historical meeting of Pope Paul VI with his Orthodox counterpart Athenagoras. But no final decision has been taken, he added.

The pontiff did rule out a visit to his native Argentina in the near future. “I think we'll have to wait for a while,” he said.

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