The Holy Father has resumed his travels this year … but where will he go next?
Pope Francis has resumed his trips outside Italy this year – Iraq, Hungary, Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece – after a calm 2020. While for the moment no destination has been officially announced by the Holy See, I.MEDIA has drawn up a list of possible trips for the pontiff in 2022., ranking them from most likely to least likely.
Hungary: After a brief visit in September 2021 for the closing ceremony of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Pope Francis is due to return to Hungary in 2022. On October 22, he announced to the Spanish-speaking press that he “had in mind” this destination for the following year.
Congolese : Another destination mentioned in the same interview was the Congo, without specifying whether it would go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo or the two neighboring countries of Central Africa. The last trip to these countries dates back to 1980, during Pope John Paul II’s first tour of Africa.
East Timor: In the same interview, Pope Francis announced his intention to settle the “unpaid bill” for this trip, initially scheduled for September 2020 and canceled due to the pandemic. A pope’s last trip to East Timor was that of John Paul II in 1989.
Papua New Guinea: The trip to East Timor should be coupled with Pope Francis’ first trip to Oceania, Papua New Guinea. The last trip of a pontiff to this country dates back to 1995, during the second visit of John Paul II.
Malta: Originally scheduled for March 2020 and postponed due to the pandemic, then referred to as part of the December trip with Cyprus and Greece, and again ruled out for health reasons, the Pope’s trip to Malta could finally take place in 2022 On October 8, Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of the archipelago, who indicated after his audience that the trip would take place next year. The last papal visit to the country took place in 2010, by Benedict XVI.
Kazakhstan: The Argentine pontiff has been officially invited to the Congress of Heads of Traditional Religions to be held in October 2022 in the capital of Nursultan (formerly Astana). The invitation was extended to the head of the Catholic Church by Maulen Ashinbayev, the President of the Kazakh Senate, who came to the Vatican on November 6, 2021. This Central Asian Muslim country, former Soviet Republic, received a visit from Jean- Paul II in September 2001.
Canada: On November 27, the Argentine Pope accepted an invitation from the Canadian Bishops’ Conference to visit Canada. The trip, if it took place, would be part of the “pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples” which has just begun. As a first step, the pontiff is to receive a delegation of natives who, after having canceled a trip planned in December, plan to come to the Vatican in the spring. The last trip of a pope to the land of the maple goes back 20 years with John-Paul II who went there three times, in 1984, 1987 and 2002.
South Sudan: The pontiff, who has repeatedly expressed his desire to visit South Sudan – a trip was already planned in 2017 with Anglican Primate Justin Welby – could see his wish come true in 2022. There will never be a ” perfect time ”but the project is under study, assured the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Vatican, Paul Gallagher, who was in the country just before Christmas, from December 21 to 23, 2021, to meet political and religious leaders. Francis would be the first pope to set foot on the soil of the young state which became independent in 2011.
Lebanon:A country dear to Pope Francis, who hosted an ecumenical summit for the peace of the Lebanese nation at the Vatican on July 1, 2021 and who repeatedly wished to visit it. This project was envisaged at the end of 2021-beginning of 2022, but the prospect seems to be receding, as the conditions of stability are not met for an apostolic journey. In his Christmas greetings on December 25, the pontiff expressed concern about the “unprecedented crisis” in Lebanon, “with very worrying economic and social conditions. The land of the Cedars was the last destination of Pope Benedict XVI in September 2012.
Croatia: On February 15, Pope Francis was invited by Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović to visit Croatia. The invitation had already been accepted by the pontiff (twice!) Before the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all papal trips for a year. A pope’s last trip to Croatia was made by Benedict XVI in 2011.
Montenegro: Another Balkan country that the pontiff plans to visit is Montenegro. Pope Francis received his Prime Minister in December 2019 at the Vatican. The latter addressed an official invitation to the Pope to visit his country; the pontiff responded by saying: “I will come.”
Finland: On the plane from Athens to Rome on December 6, 2021, Pope Francis spoke about this predominantly Evangelical-Lutheran northern European country as part of a possible meeting with Patriarch Kirill. The Russian Orthodox leader is expected to visit Finland, a country where the Orthodox Church has a special status, and which could represent neutral territory between Rome and Moscow. However, the day after this press conference, Metropolitan Hilarion, in charge of the patriarchate’s external relations, tempered the Pope’s remarks by stressing that much remained to be done for such a summit. And he ruled out any possible meeting on Russian soil.
BAhreïn: The Argentine pontiff was officially invited to Bahrain by King Hamed bin Issa Al Khalifa, the kingdom’s diplomatic adviser announced after his visit to the Vatican on November 25, 2021. The monarch made many signs of good will in recent times, in particular by offering the apostolic vicariate land for the construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, the largest Catholic church in the region, consecrated by the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples the December 10. would be the first time that the island state had welcomed Peter’s successor.
India: Meeting the Argentine pontiff for the first time on October 30, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited him to India. A gesture noticed by a government which maintains complex relations with the Christian communities – which represent less than 5% of the national population, mostly Hindu. If Pope Francis were to visit India, it would be a pontiff’s third trip to the country after John Paul II’s visits in 1986 and 1999.
Spain: A pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is being considered, Pope Francis told Spanish radio on September 1. However, he insisted that, as with his previous trip to Budapest last September and his visit to Strasbourg in 2014, it would not be an official trip to one country but a trip to the city alone.
Ukraine: Pope Francis was officially invited to visit Ukraine by President Volodymyr Zelensky during a telephone conversation on June 29. The geopolitical context seems to make a trip difficult to organize at the moment, with the Holy See at the same time trying to strengthen its ties with Russia, where the pontiff said he wanted to visit. The last trip of a pope to Ukraine dates back to 2001.
France: Continuing his logic of visiting small countries and peripheries, Pope Francis is unlikely to visit the large Western countries – France, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom – in the next 12 months. There is no indication that plans for a trip to Marseille, France, which had been hinted at for 2021, will materialize in 2022.
North Korea: A pope’s first trip to North Korea has been mentioned several times this year, both by South Korean bishops and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his visit to the Vatican. While Pope Francis has said he is in favor of the initiative, the Holy See is awaiting a formal invitation from Pyongyang before it can begin preparations for this historic trip.