BANGKOK (AP) – Pope Francis will visit Thailand and Japan in November in a visit expected to highlight his call for complete nuclear disarmament.
The Vatican confirmed the November 19-26 trip, and its diplomatic representative in Thailand, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, announced the Thai stop yesterday.
Francis will be in Thailand on November 20-23 before heading to Japan, where government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the pope would meet with the emperor and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
It will be Francis’ fourth trip to Asia, where he has already visited South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The last pope to visit Japan was the late Saint Pope John Paul II in 1981.
He was also the last pope to visit Thailand, in 1984. Francis’s Japan visit includes Tokyo as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were hit by United States (US) atomic bombs at the end of World War II.
A call for a world without nuclear weapons has been Francis’ longtime message. Nagasaki Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, expressed gratitude to Francis, noting he and others in the Japanese church have been asking for his visit for years.