VATICAN CITY, Sept 13, 2019 (AFP) – Pope Francis is to visit Thailand and Japan, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from November 19 to 26, the Vatican announced on Friday.
The pontiff will travel to Thailand from November 20-23 and then Japan to November 26, the Vatican said in a statement.
The pope’s Japan leg, the first papal visit since John Paul II nearly 40 years ago, will also take him to Tokyo.
The pope in January voiced his intention to visit Japan, home to some 450,000 Roman Catholics.
Around 510,000 Protestants live in the largely Shinto Buddhist country, according to Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs.
Francis had wanted to work as a missionary there in his youth but abandoned the plan after a lung operation.
The pope has made two trips to Asia since his election five years ago, visiting the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2014, followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh last year.
In 2018, Francis issued a harrowing photograph taken in 1945 showing a young Japanese boy carrying his dead brother.
The child, carried on the boy’s back, was killed when the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki.
Francis, who has often spoken of the dangers of nuclear weapons, had written on the back of the image just four words: “The fruit of war”.