Japan waiting for Pope Francis with ‘jitters and trepidation’
by Yurie Miyawaki

Although no official announcement has been made, the pope is expected in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The trip might include a visit to Thailand. Catholics expect a "message for a world without war" and a meeting with Jesus.


Hiroshima (AsiaNews) – Japanese are waiting for Pope Francis’s visit with jitters and trepidation, as well as enthusiasm and concern.

So far, the only certainty is that the pontiff’s visit will take place in November, as Francis himself said speaking to a journalist during his trip for World Youth Day in Panama in January.

A few days after that, Japanese Catholics urged the Pope to speak out against nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities that experienced a nuclear holocaust.

According to some reports, the Pope plans to meet atomic bomb survivors on the second day of his visit, which starts on 23 November. No official statement has been made but reports from Japan suggest that Francis will be in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 24 November.

Vatican sources note everything is on hold because the Holy See is planning a three-day stop in Thailand. However, the government of the Southeast Asian country took office only in mid-July and it is still in the process of organising itself. Some sources told AsiaNews, that something should be announced by the end of the month.

Despite the lack of official statements, Hiroshima is preparing to receive the pontiff. "Our people, who have lived through the atomic bomb, are very eager to meet him. Everyone is certain that he will deliver a message for a world without war.”

According to the local Church, even though we don’t have all details of the visit, the city will welcome the pope "with enthusiasm".

One Catholic, who did not want to give his name, told AsiaNews that, "We just want him, as someone with great influence in the world, to send a message of peace from Hiroshima to the world, to support the total abolition of nuclear weapons."

Along with joy and enthusiasm, there is also the typically Japanese concern that the "visit be perfect from every point of view and that nothing bad happens to the Pope". For one Catholic however, “We know that the Spirit guides the Pope and joy will be great because through him, we shall meet Jesus."

This will be the second time for a pope in Japan. John Paul II visited the country in February 1981.