Pope Francis will travel to Thailand in November, the Vatican said Friday, in a visit to Asia that will extend to Japan and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were both decimated by atomic bombs in 1945.
It has been nearly four decades since a pontiff visited Thailand and Japan, both Buddhist-majority countries.
The late Pope John Paul II went to the largely Shinto Buddhist Japan in 1981, and he travelled to Thailand three years later where he met with the late King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.
The Vatican announced Friday the current pontiff will travel to Thailand from November 20-23, and then Japan to November 26.
In Bangkok, Pope Francis will “preside at religious ceremonies and pastoral visits to Catholic communities”, said a press statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand.
Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, the Pope’s second cousin who runs a Catholic girls’ school in Thailand, told AFP she would be with Pope Francis during his Bangkok visit.
“This visit shows his desire to improve the dialogue to other religions to bring a message of peace,” she told AFP.
The four-day papal visit will coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam”, which was first established by Pope Clement IX in 1669.