11/19/2019, 18.43
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Pope prays in Saint Mary Major on the eve of his departure for Thailand and Japan

This morning the pontiff prayed before the image of Mary, Salus populi romani. His flight for Bangkok is at 7pm, arrival tomorrow. Here is the schedule of Francis’s 32nd apostolic trip.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis went to the Saint Mary Major Basilica this morning to pray before the image of Maria salus populi Romani (Mary protectress of people of Rome) a few hours before leaving for his apostolic journey to Thailand and Japan.

For the pontiff, visiting the basilica has become a tradition, something he does every time he leaves and returns from a trip. This Roman basilica is especially dear to the Pope who has visited it on a regular basis since the first day after his election, on 14 March 2013.

For Francis, this will be his 32nd apostolic trip, with take-off tonight at 7pm, again for Asia, with a first stop in Thailand (20-23) and then Japan (23-26). He will also be the second pontiff to visit both countries after John Paul II.

The Holy Father will arrive tomorrow in Bangkok at 12.30 pm local time, at the Military Air Terminal 2 where an official reception awaits him. This trip to Thailand, whose motto is Disciples of Christ, missionary disciples, will mark the 350th anniversary of the institution of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, in 1669.

Thursday morning (22 November), Francis will go to Government House for a welcome ceremony and a meeting with the prime minister. Afterwards, in the Inner Santi Maitri Room, he will address the authorities, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society groups.

On this day, Francis will also visit the Supreme Patriarch of Thai Buddhism at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple, followed by a visit to St Louis Hospital where he will meet healthcare workers and patients. In the afternoon, the pontiff will have private audience with Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn Rama X, followed by Mass at the National Stadium to end the day.

On Friday (22 November), Francis will meet with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and catechists at St Peter’s Parish, before travelling to the Shrine of the Blessed Nicholas Boonkerd Kitbamrung, where he will have an audience with the bishops of Thailand and Asia. Near the Shrine, he will hold a private meeting with members of the Society of Jesus.

After lunch he will get together with local Christian leaders as well as Christian leaders from other regions and deliver a speech at Chulalongkorn University. At the end of the day, he will lead a Mass with young people in Bangkok’s Cathedral of the Assumption.

Francis will leave Thailand for Japan on Saturday (23 November). The motto for this part of his Asian trip is Protect all life where the T in Protect is in the shape of a cross. Arrival time is 5.40 pm at Tokyo-Haneda Airport. Once at the nunciature, he will have his first meeting with the bishops.

A visit to Nagasaki and Hiroshima will take place on Sunday (24 November). Francis will fly from Tokyo to Nagasaki where he will deliver his Message on nuclear weapons at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park and pay tribute to the Holy Martyrs at the Twenty-Six Martyrs Monument on Nishizaka Hill, with his greeting and the recitation of the Angelus.

In the afternoon, there is Mass at the baseball stadium, before leaving for Hiroshima where he will speak at the Peace Meeting at the Peace Memorial. In the evening, he will return to Tokyo.

In the Japanese capital, on Monday (25 November) Francis will meet survivors of the Triple Disaster (as the Fukushima catastrophe is called in Japan) at Belle Salle Hanzomon, followed by a private audience with Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace, and a meeting with young people at Tokyo’s St Mary's Cathedral.

In the afternoon, Francis will lead the Mass at the Tokyo Dome and meet with the prime minister, the authorities and the diplomatic corps in Kantei.

The last day of the apostolic journey will open with a private Mass with the members of the Society of Jesus in the Kulturzentrum chapel at Sophia University, followed by a private meeting with the Maximum College in Sophia University, where Francis will also visit elderly and sick priests, as well as a final address.

A farewell ceremony will be held at Tokyo-Haneda Airport at 11.35am. The pontiff is expected in Rome at 5.15 pm.

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