Vatican City (AsiaNews) - As AsiaNews reported last May, Pope Francis will make an apostolic trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January 2015. The Holy See Press Office made the official announcement today, stating that the pontiff will be in Sri Lanka from 12 to 15 January and in the Philippines 15 to 19 January. The trip's programme will be published shortly.
After the ad limina visit with other Sri Lankan prelates on 9 May, Mgr Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar, told AsiaNews that Pope Francis' visit to the former Ceylon was "more than a hope."
A few weeks later, the pope himself reiterated his intention to travel to the two Asian countries, at the press conference during the papal flight back from the trip to the Holy Land.
"There are two trips planned for Asia," Francis said, "South Korea (in August) and a two-day trip next January to Sri Lanka and then the Philippines, to the area struck by the tsunami."
Recently, in another interview with AsiaNews, Mgr Joseph said that in Sri Lanka Francis Pope will travel to the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, where "He will celebrate a Mass here but he will also meet the survivors of the civil war, to listen to their painful testimonies and pray with and for them."
In late May, Card Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, said, "There are plans for a visit by Pope Francis to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, in a single trip to the region".
After a recent meeting with the Holy Father, the cardinal stressed "Pope Francis' great love for Asia and the Philippines," which along with the East Timor is the only predominantly Catholic country in the continent.