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Papal visit confirmation enthralls Indonesian Catholics

Pope Francis will visit Indonesia and neighboring Timor-Leste during the September trip to Asia
Pope Francis

Pope Francis (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 01, 2024 12:27 PM GMT
Updated: April 01, 2024 12:46 PM GMT

The Indonesian government confirming Pope Francis' visit has sparked enthusiasm among Catholics in the Muslim-majority nation.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Indonesia on Sept. 3, Minister of Religion Yaqut Cholil Quomas said in a March 30 statement referring to a Vatican confirmation of the date.

"This is certainly an honor for the Indonesian people," he added.

President Joko Widodo invited the pope for a visit in June 2022, the minister said.

The upcoming visit has also been confirmed by the Secretary General of the Jakarta Archdiocese, Father Adi Prasojo.

He said the Church officials were waiting for the government confirmation because the government "is the most responsible" party for "everything about a papal visit."

He said they plan to form a special committee to facilitate the visit. 

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, archbishop of Jakarta, told UCA News on April 1 that the Indonesian Bishops' Conference will make an official announcement on April 8.

A source at the bishops’ conference said that the pope might only visit Jakarta, considering his weak physical condition.

His speculation comes against widely circulated reports that Pope Francis may also visit Kalimantan and Flores, two regions with a sizable number of Catholics. 

Soleman Itlay, a Catholic layman in Jayapura, Papua Province, said, "The visit can greet all parts of Indonesia, including us in Papua," even if the pope visits only the capital city.

"I hope he can use this opportunity to also talk about the problems of Catholics in Papua, especially indigenous people who face chronic problems."

He said Papuan people, mostly Christians, face both human rights violations and marginalization as corporate companies take over their traditional lands.

"We hope that the pope as leader will provide a touch to resolve the Papua problem peacefully. The Pope doesn't need to talk about politics, but humanitarian issues," he said.

The Catholic Church has been in Papua for almost 130 years, he said expressing hope that the pope can add more native Papuan bishops.

"Currently there is only one native Papuan bishop," he said, referring to the Bishop Yanuarius Teofilus Matopai You of Jayapura, the only native Papuan bishop of the five dioceses in the easternmost region.

Gabriel Goa Sola, from the joint lay and religious group Zero Human Trafficking Network which focuses on advocating for migrant worker cases, hopes that the pope will also touch on the issue of migrants.

"Considering that Indonesia, especially in Catholic-majority areas such as in East Nusa Tenggara province, is a human trafficking enclave, I also hope he will pay attention to this problem," he said.

He could also talk to the government about the need for an agency to deal with human trafficking because this is an emergency issue,” he said.

The pope will visit Indonesia and neighboring Timor-Leste during the September trip to Asia, officials say.

In Catholic-majority Timor-Leste, the government has already formed a special committee and allocated a budget of US$12 million for organizing the papal visit.

Pope Francis was supposed to visit Indonesia, Timor-Leste and  Papua New Guinea in 2020 but canceled the trip due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Christians make up 24 million of Indonesia's estimated population of more than 270 million. Catholics account for about 7 million.

The country has six organized religions — Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Protestantism — and around 200 traditional beliefs.

Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the world’s largest Muslim-majority country after the visits of Pope Paul VI in December 1970 and Pope John Paul II in October 1989.

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DR.CAJETAN COELHO
His Holiness Pope Francis is a special messenger of the Good News.
Asian Bishops
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UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
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