Pope will visit Japan in November

Pope Francis speaking to journalists on the plane on his way to Panama

Pope Francis said he would be going to Japan in November, and urged people to “get ready.”

His remarks came aboard the flight to Panama, in response to a question from a Japanese journalist asking if the Pope was planning a trip to his country. Pope Francis said he also wanted to visit Iraq, but that the local Bishops say it is not safe at the moment.

Another journalist gave the pope a picture of the young migrant who died at sea, who had his report card sewn into his clothes. The Pope was visibly moved, saying he wanted to talk about it on the return journey.

In answer to a question from a reporter Italian television network Rai about the walls erected to stop migrants in Tijuana, on the border between Mexico and the United States, Pope Francis said that fear makes us crazy, and he suggested reading the editorial in L’Osservatore Romano titled “The Walls of Fear”.

The interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, responding to questions from journalists, said that the Apostolic Voyage of the Pope to Japan “is in the phase of being studied. As the Holy Father has already said on other occasions, he has a great desire to go to this country.

With regard to a possible visit to Iraq, according to the local Bishops the conditions at the moment do not exist for a visit of the Holy Father, as already affirmed also by Cardinal Pietro Parolin on his return from his visit to the country last December.”

Pope Francis was visibly moved when he spoke to the journalists about Alexej Bukalov, Rome correspondent of the TASS news agency and veteran journalist of papal flights.  Bukalov, who followed papal journeys right up until the most recent one, passed away on 28 December last, aged 78. The Pope described him as  “A man of great humanity” able to provide a synthesis with the style of Dostoevsky.”

“This is the first flight in which a colleague of yours, Alexei Bukalov of TASS news agency, to whom I was very close, is missing”. “He was a man – Francis added – of great humanity. A kind of humanity that is not afraid of plumbing the lowest depths of human nature, and of ascending to the Divine.

After thanking the journalists who will be reporting on his activities and words in the next few days in Panama, for the intense work they will be carrying out, the Pope, with audible emotion asked everyone to observe a moment of silence in memory of the Russian journalist and concluded with the Lord’s prayer. The journalists reacted to the Pope’s tribute to their colleague with a round of warm applause.

Papal trip organizer, Monsignor Mauricio Rueda Belz, introduced Alessandro Gisotti, the “ad interim” Holy See Press Office Director, on his first papal journey in this role.