The Vatican

The Pope's travels in 2023, in the 10 years of his pontificate

On March 13, 2023, Pope Francis will complete 10 years of pontificate at the head of the Catholic Church. The first American Pope in history turned 86 in December and is already thinking about his legacy, but he is not slowing down his activity, despite his knee; he is working on the Synod of Synodality and the Jubilee of 2025, and is planning some trips, where he can launch his messages even more forcefully.

Francisco Otamendi-December 29, 2022-Reading time: 5 minutes
The Pope in Panama

The Pope boarding the plane in Panama after WYD (CNS Photo / Henry Romero, Reuters)

The Pope has long been engaged in catechesis on discernment. At Wednesday's hearing On December 21, 2022, the Holy Father said that discernment is very complicated, but "in reality it is life that is complicated and, if we do not learn to read it, we run the risk of wasting it, carrying it forward with tricks that end up discouraging us".

His reflection was global, but it could well apply to his apostolic journeys, because he added that we are always discerning, even in the little things of the day, because "life always puts us before choices, and if we do not make them consciously, in the end it is life that chooses for us, taking us where we would not want to go".

In fact, for the year 2023, and perhaps taking into account his age and mobility problems in his knee, the Holy See has confirmed only one apostolic visit, between January 31 and February 5, to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Although if there is no medical 'stop', it is quite likely that he will also travel to the Meeting of Bishops of the Mediterranean in Marseille (France), in February or March, which is usually attended also by civil authorities. And very possibly, we will also see him at the World Youth Day in Lisbon, from August 1 to 6. But let's take it one step at a time.

Fifth trip to Africa

The visit to Congolese lands is long awaited, because it was scheduled for July 2022, and was officially postponed on the advice of doctors. Perhaps it was also influenced by the situation in the east of the Congolese country, where "dozens of militias, with the complicity of neighboring countries and politicians eager for wealth, have been confronting the presence of the blue helmets [UN] on Congolese soil since the conflicts began," explains Alberto García Marcos from Kinshasa. For this reason, too, the slogan of the papal visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo is "All reconciled in Christ".

During this fifth visit of the Pope to the African continent ̶the previous ones were to Kenya, Central African Republic and Uganda (2015), Egypt (2017), Morocco (2019), and Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius (2019). ̶ Francis will also travel to South Sudan, together with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Church, and Jim Wallance, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. "Sign of unity and an example to the people to put aside divisions. The motto of the trip says it all: 'I pray that all may be one' (Jn 17). It will be a journey of peace and at the same time of ecumenical character," said Garcia Marcos.

"The Mediterranean, a cold cemetery".

The Pope wants to go to Marseille for the Meeting of Bishops of the Mediterranean, because it is one of the central themes of his pontificate: to transform the culture of discarding, in this case of migrants and refugees, into a culture of welcome, inclusion and care. Last year, the meeting was held in Florence, and the Pope visited the capital of Tuscany in February.

The media are still echoing today the words of the Holy Father in Athens and in the refugee camp of Mytilene, in Lesbos (Greece), at the end of 2021. In front of the Parthenon and the Greek authorities, he said: "The gaze, in addition to being directed upwards, is also directed towards the other. We are reminded of the sea, which Athens overlooks and which guides the vocation of this land, located in the heart of the Mediterranean, to be a bridge between people". 

At Lesbosfive years after his first visit, he added: "The Mediterranean, which for millennia has united different peoples and distant lands, is becoming a cold cemetery without tombstones. This great space of water, cradle of many civilizations, now seems a mirror of death. Let us not allow the 'mare nostrum' to become a desolate 'mare mortuum'".

WYD Lisbon

On January 27, 2019, at World Youth Day held in Panama, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Holy See's Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, announced that Lisbon would be the next city to host the event. Initially scheduled for the summer of 2022, WYD Lisbon was postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

Pope Francis has attended the World Youth Days in Rio de Janeiro (2013), Krakow (2016) and Panama (2019). The Vatican has not yet confirmed the presence of the Roman Pontiff in Lisbon. However, it would be foreseeable that he would do so in the coming months. It is a tradition for the Pope to attend the final days of these multitudinous meetings with young people, as happened so many times with St. John Paul II, and with Benedict XVI in 2011 in Madrid, for example.

Earrings: Papua New Guinea....

The visit of Pope Francis to Papua New Guinea (Oceania), and perhaps to a country halfway between Southeast Asia and Australia, such as Indonesia, was postponed in 2020 also due to the pandemic, and there is no special news to confirm this trip of the Pope, at least in the near future, but anything can happen. Indonesia is an island country, with more than 200 million inhabitants, and 80 percent Muslim, although there are also Christians, around 8 percent.

The original destination for the 2020 trip was Papua New Guinea, which became independent in 1975 after decades of Australian administration and is located in northern Australia, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is home to numerous ethnic groups and rural people, and more than 800 native languages are spoken. After the 2019 Amazon Synod, and the apostolic journey to Canada in 2022, the Pope could travel to Papua New Guinea, doctors permitting.


A visit to Oceania would have to include, perhaps, a stopover in Australia, but this is not known. St. John Paul II traveled twice to Australia, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI presided over a World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, prior to the one held in Madrid (2011).

On the other hand, last November 1, a law came into force in Western Australia, known as the 'Australian Law on the Protection of the Environment'. Community and Family Services Amendment Bill 2021', priests to denounce sexual abuse of minors, even if it is committed by a priest. manifest themselves under the sacramental seal of confession.

The Archbishop of Perth, the capital of this state, Monsignor Timothy Costelloe SDB, who has acknowledged the "horrible history" of sexual abuse of minors, has argued his opposition to the recent law. He stresses, among other things, that "sins are not confessed to the priest but to God", and that the priest "has no right or authority to reveal anything that happens in this intimate encounter with God".

Speculation about Ukraine

On the flight back to Rome from Kazakhstan after his participation in the VII Congress of Leaders of Religions and his visit to the Kazakh country in September, the Pope noted, in answering questions about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that "it is difficult to talk to someone who has started a war, but it must be done."

The question is where and how. There was speculation at the time that the Roman Pontiff would visit Ukraine, but for the moment those who have traveled to bring encouragement, blankets and medicine are Cardinals Konrad Krajewski and Michael Czerny, prefects of the Dicasteries for the Services of Charity and Integral Human Development, respectively.

– Supernatural diplomacy The Vatican continues to work on mediation efforts, while the Pope makes urgent appeals for the guns to be silenced and peace to return. The war in Ukraine, "along with the other conflicts around the globe, represents a defeat for humanity as a whole and not only for the parties directly involved," the Holy Father said in his Message for the World Day of Peace January 1, which refers to "starting again from Covid, to trace together paths of peace", because "no one can save himself alone".

His pain for war, for all wars, leads him to seek and promote human fraternity, as he did in Iraq, Kazakhstan or Bahrain, in the wake of Abu Dhabi. This is possibly the way to explore future trips of the Pope.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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