Before the year runs out, Pope Francis will pay a visit to Thailand and Japan in November.
His visit is expected to highlight his call for complete nuclear disarmament and honour the small Catholic communities in both countries.
His trip to Thailand and Japan will begin November 19 to 26, the Vatican confirmed. Pope Francis will be in Thailand from November 20-23 before heading to Japan, where government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said he would meet with the emperor.
This will be his fourth trip to Asia, where he has already visited South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The last visit by a Pope to Japan was the late Saint Pope John Paul II in 1981. He was also the last Pope to visit Thailand, in 1984.
During his official visit to Thailand, the Catholic leader will preside at religious ceremonies and pay pastoral visits to Catholic communities.
Francis’s Japan visit includes Tokyo as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were hit by U.S. atomic bombs at the end of World War II.
Pope Francis has frequently spoken out about the risk of nuclear war, most emphatically during a 2017 disarmament conference at the Vatican where he signaled a shift in church teaching about nuclear deterrence.
In that speech to Nobel laureates, NATO officials and diplomats, he warned that the Cold War-era strategy of deterrence was no longer viable and urged instead complete nuclear disarmament.
“If we . . . take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of (nuclear weapons’) use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,” he said.
His comments marked a shift, given previous popes including St. John Paul II, had called for the abolition of nuclear weapons but had said the stockpiling of them could be morally acceptable as a form of deterrence.