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Pope Francis to visit Thailand and Japan in November

Posted August. 21, 2019 09:32,   

Updated August. 21, 2019 09:32

Pope Francis makes a visit to Thailand and Japan for the first time in six years. According to Reuters’ reports on Monday, several Vatican Palace officials said that the 266th pope will make an official visit to Thailand around Nov. 20 before he visits Japan between Nov. 23 and 26 according to his overseas trip schedule issued in January.

It is the first trip by a pope or the world’s Catholic leader to Thailand in 35 years since late Pope John Paul II (the 264th pope between 1920 and2005), paid a visit in 1984. Likewise, it is the first visit to Japan in 38 years since John Paul II visited the country in 1981.

According to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ data, around 95 percent of 69.3 million Thai people are Buddhist while the majority of Japan’s total population of 126.85 million practice Shintoism, which is based on beliefs in ancestors and nature, or Buddhism. Reuters speculated that Pope Francis visits nations whose Catholic believers only take up less than 0.5 percent because he tries to discuss how to promote peace across the world with those who believe in other religions. During his stay in Japan, the pope will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the United States dropped nuclear bombs in the Second World War.

An expected visit by the pope to Thailand is made in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of a visit by Pope Clement IX (the 238th pope between 1600 and 1669,) to Siam - a former exonym and administrative division used for Thailand - on his mission work. According to the Vatican Palace, 662 Catholic priests were assigned to 436 churches in Thailand as of last year.

Taek Kyoon Sohn sohn@donga.com