The evolution of the pandemic is marking the Pope's visits to various places in Italy and around the world. For this reason, the Holy See cannot schedule these trips as far in advance as it would like. However, Francis has been slipping in some of his wishes, and the audiences offer some clues.
In writing these lines about possible trips of the Pope in this year that is beginning, with the help of Giovanni TridenteOmnes correspondent in Italy, was thinking of three scenes from 2021. The first, his words on the plane returning from his historic visit to Iraq at the beginning of March, which we will now see.
Second, the consecration of the modern church of St. John the Baptist, a novena in the United Arab Emirates, in December, just days before the inauguration of the grand cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in Bahrain, which the Pope will inaugurate in December. has thanked King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
And the third, Pope Francis' meeting with the Orthodox Metropolitan, president of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Relations, Hilarion Alfeyev, which took place on December 22, in the study of the Paul VI Hall. For an hour, they reaffirmed "the spirit of fraternity" and the common commitment to "seek concrete human and spiritual answers," the Vatican Press Office noted.
With Orthodox Patriarch Kirill
At the meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion conveyed to the Pope his best wishes, both personally and on behalf of Patriarch Kirill., for his 85th birthday. The Pontiff welcomed these greetings "with gratitude," expressing "sentiments of affection and closeness to the Russian Church" and to Kirill himself, who recently turned 75. The Holy Father recalled "the path of fraternity we have traveled together and the conversation we had in Havana in 2016."
In this climate, which continues that maintained by the Holy Father with the highest representatives of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus and Greece, one of the possible places that the Vatican Secretariat of State is considering for a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill could be the Abbey of Pannhonalma (Hungary), a place of strong ecumenical tradition, perhaps in September, or even in the first half of this year. Its abbot is Cyril Tamas Horotobagyi, and he has been in Rome in December. Other possible venues for such a meeting would be Finland and even Kazakhstan, although the country is now embroiled in a crisis. "I am always willing, I am also willing to go to Moscow. There are no protocols for dialogue with a brother," the Pope said recently, Rome Reports reports.
"I traveled to Iraq knowing the risks, but after much prayer, I made the decision freely. It has been like getting out of prison.", said Pope Francis on the plane returning from his visit to the land of Abraham in March 2021, after fifteen months in seclusion in the Vatican, without receiving the faithful in audiences.
The stay of the Common Father of Catholics on Iraqi soil left us some important lessons, which we summarize in Omnes, and also offer some keys for his next trips. Perhaps the first is this: to think of others, of the Iraqi people, to travel even when everything seemed against him, to go to comfort and console them. A work of mercy.
The second was compassion, like Jesus shortly before the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, as read in this Saturday's Gospel. A few years ago, in October 2015, shortly before the convocation of the Holy Year of Mercy, the Pope said in Santa Marta: God. "he has compassion, he has compassion for each one of us; he has compassion for humanity and has sent his Son to heal it."
Compassion was at the heart of the prayers of Pope Francis, Pontifex, in the plains of Nineveh and Ur, for so many people, especially Christians, who have suffered "the tragic consequences of war and hostility". And in Mosul, where the Pope spoke of cruelty: "It is cruel that this country, the cradle of civilization, has been hit by such an inhuman storm, with ancient places of worship destroyed and thousands and thousands of people (Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others), forcibly evicted and killed.". Hours later, on the flight back to Rome, he would tell reporters: "I did not imagine the ruins of Mosul, I was speechless." Some photo, which you can see in this web siteis really shocking.
"We have to forgive."
There, in Hosh-al-Bieaaa, the square of the four churches (Syriac-Catholic, Armenian-Orthodox, Syriac-Orthodox and Chaldean) of Mosul, destroyed between 2014 and 2017 by terrorist attacks, Francis solemnly affirmed that. "fraternity is stronger than fratricide, hope is stronger than death, peace is stronger than war.". "This conviction can never be silenced in the blood shed by those who profane the name of God by walking paths of destruction."
Last but not least (last but not least), we said, forgiveness. "Almighty God, open our hearts to mutual forgiveness, make us instruments of reconciliation."prayed in the ancient Ur of Abraham, together with a hundred representatives of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, in a historic interreligious meeting.
Lebanon, Kazakhstan, India...
After the messages that the Pope has left us also in Cyprus or near the Athenian Acropolis, in Lesbos, and before that in Budapest and Slovakia, Pope Francis has cried out in parallel for peace and stability in the land of the cedars, Lebanon. The conditions for such a visit are not yet likely to be in place, at least in the first half of the year. But Francis wants to go to the Mediterranean country.
In early August, one year after the terrible explosion that devastated the port of Beirut, leaving nearly 200 dead and thousands injured, the Pope publicly renewed his commitment to visit Lebanon in the near future. "Dear Lebanese," he said in the Paul VI Hall, "my desire to visit you is great. I never tire of praying for you, asking that Lebanon may once again be a message of fraternity, a message of peace for the entire Middle East".
Kazakhstan (Central Asia) will host the Seventh Meeting of the Leaders of Traditional Religions on September 14-15, and it should be recalled that the President of the Senate recently visited the Pope in Rome. However, the current political conditions of the country do not seem ideal for a papal visit, as has been pointed out. However, nothing can be ruled out.
Let us also mention India. At the end of October, the Pope received the Prime Minister of the Indian Republic, Narendra Modi, who then greeted Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States: "In the course of a brief conversation," the communiqué noted, "they referred to the cordial relations existing between the Holy See and India". However, there is no concrete date for an eventual visit.
Santiago de Compostela, Canada
Two probable trips of the Pope in the summer of this year are Santiago de Compostela and Canada. In the extensive interview with Carlos Herrera, 'Herrera en Cope', at the beginning of September, the Pope said his desire to travel to Santiago in the summer of 2022 to address an appeal to Europe. "To the president of the Xunta de Galicia I promised to think about the matter," the Pontiff commented. "For me the unity of Europe at the moment is a challenge. Either Europe continues to refine and improve in the European Union, or it disintegrates." The ideal framework could be the end of the European Youth Pilgrimage, which concludes on August 6 and 7.
Francis reiterated in the conversation that its objective is to continue to give priority to visiting small European countries.. Therefore, "I went to Strasbourg but I did not go to France. I went to Strasbourg for the European Union. And if I go to Santiago, I go to Santiago, but not to Spain, let it be clear". Although some media do not rule out the possibility that the Pope, a Jesuit after all, may agree to visit Manresa (or Loyola) at the conclusion of the Ignatian Year, which commemorates the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, as Omnes has reported.
Another possible visit is the Pope's trip to Canada, in North America, which has to do with an issue that has shaken the Church in recent years: the serious abuse of minors. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has invited the Holy Father to make an apostolic visit within the context of the pastoral process of reconciliation being carried out with the indigenous population, following their mistreatment by Catholic communities in the 19th century, which included the discovery of more than a thousand unmarked graves with the remains of indigenous children.
Ukraine, Montenegro, Malta, South Sudan, Congo...
There is also talk of a trip to Ukraine before the summer. At Christmas, Francis said that "the metastases of a gangrenous conflict" should not be allowed to spread in Ukraine, because of the tensions between Kiev and Moscow, which give rise to fears of a military escalation. And he also recalled the "forgotten" tragedies of the conflict in Yemen and Syria, which "has caused many victims and an incalculable number of refugees". Ukrainian Catholics take the Pope's trip almost for granted, in order to avoid a conflict with Russia.
Moreover, since before the pandemic, His Holiness had been planning trips to Montenegro, Malta, Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea (Oceania), and perhaps even more insistently, to the Republic of Congo and South Sudan, on the African continent.
Florence (Mediterranean region), and Rome.
A first meeting this year will be the Pope's meeting in Florence with bishops and mayors of the Mediterranean region at the end of February, in which refugees and their families will also participate, so that this area will once again become "a symbol of unity and not a border".
The event continues the mission launched by the Italian Episcopate in Bari in February 2020, on the verge of the pandemic, with the meeting "Mediterranean, frontier of peace" which, for the first time in history, brought together the bishops of the Mare Nostrumunited by the desire to tear down the walls that separate nations, reports the official Vatican agency.
Moreover, in June of this year, without moving from Rome, will take place the X Meeting of Familieswith the theme 'Family love: vocation and path to holiness'. A meeting that had to be postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic and that will have a multicenter and extended modality, "favoring the involvement of diocesan communities around the world".
"Four or five trips out of Italy."
Pope Francis begins this year, which will mark nine years since his election, with the preparation of "four or five" trips outside Italy, during which he could visit Oceania and Canada for the first time, among other destinations, the Télam news agency reported, although he has in mind trips "to the Congo and Hungary".
"In addition, I still have to pay the overdue bill for the trip to Papua New Guinea and East Timor," the Holy Father added, referring to the visit originally scheduled for 2020, but suspended because of the pandemic.
"You have to go to the periphery if you want to see the world as it is," the Pope pointed out about his way of traveling in the book 'Let's Dream Together', in which he added: "I always thought that one sees the world more clearly from the periphery, but in these last seven years as Pope, I ended up proving it. To find a new future you have to go to the periphery".