This year is going to be a very busy year for the Pope who is scheduled to travel to at least five countries, preside a Synod and a Special Meeting for Bishops from all over the world, continue with the task of reforming the Roman Curia and the usual run of the mill audiences once a week and celebrating all Catholic feasts and solemnities.
This month – from 23 to 28 January he will travel to Panama for the 34th edition of the World Youth Day. Preparations in Panama are already at an advanced stage with the participation of hundreds of youths, even prisioners lending a helping hand to give the Pope a very warm welcome. In a message sent to Panama in November, the Pontiff invited youths to improve the wold through their dreams, ideals and courage.
From 3-5 February, Pope Francis will be the first Pope to visit the United Arab Emirates. The Journey’s central theme surrounds inter-religious dialogue and solidarity among members of different faiths. The leaders of the UAE declared 2019 as a “Year of Tolerance” with the goal of promoting a culture free of religious fundamentalism.
Vatican News included in the Pope’s schedule the 28th meeting of the Council of Cardinals which is to take place at the Vatican from 18 to 20 February. The Council which today consists only of six Cardinals, since three other have retired due to their age, will focus on the revision of the Constitution of the Roman Curia with the aim of helping the Vatican’s governing body, become more responsive to the needs of a Missionary Church.
February will be a very busy month for the Pope since from 21-24, Pope Francis will meet all Presidents of the Episcopal Conference to discuss and find ways and means to prevent the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. This is a very important meeting and the Organizing Committee, comprising Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna has already undertaken a lot of work and sent a questionare to all Conference to complete before the meeting. This will be a meeting to fight sexual abuse, abuse of power and conscience by members of the Church.
The last two days of March will see Pope Francis travelling to Morocco. He will continue in the steps of Pope St. John Paul II in promoting mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, 33 years after Pope John Paul II visit to Casablanca.
In May 5 – 7, the Holy Father will travel to Bulgaria (Sofia and Rakovski) and Macedonia (Skopje), native place of St Theresa of Calcutta. In these two countries, Catholics form a small minority. The majority are Orthodox. In this context, high on the Pontiff’s agenda will be the promotion of ecumenism.
This year, in October, a Synod of Bishops is convened to discuss the Pan-Amazonia region with the theme “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology”. Bishops from nine nations bordering Amazonia and seven Episcopal Conferences, will discuss a multitude of themes, including ecology.
These are appointments to which the Pope has already committed himself during this year. But this might not be the final schedule. Vatican News reports that though there has been no official confirmation, Pope Francis openly told a group of Japanese visitors to the Vatican that he hopes to travel to Japan in 2019.