Pope confirms Nov 20-23 Thailand visit

Pope confirms Nov 20-23 Thailand visit

Visit to highlight call for complete nuclear disarmament and honour Catholic communities

Catholic churchgoers attend a Mass in Bangkok on Sept 8. (AP photo)
Catholic churchgoers attend a Mass in Bangkok on Sept 8. (AP photo)

Pope Francis will visit Thailand and Japan in November in a visit expected to highlight his call for complete nuclear disarmament and honour the small Catholic communities in each country.

The Vatican confirmed the Nov 19-26 trip, and its diplomatic representative in Thailand, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, announced the Thai stop on Friday. Pope Francis will be in Thailand on Nov 20-23 before heading to Japan, where government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said he would meet with the emperor.

It will be Pope Francis' fourth trip to Asia, where he has already visited South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The last pope to visit Japan was the late Saint Pope John Paul II in 1981. He was also the last pope to visit Thailand, in 1984.

During his official visit to Thailand, Pope Francis will preside at religious ceremonies and pay pastoral visits to Catholic communities.

Pope Francis's Japan visit includes Tokyo as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were hit by US atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

Pope Francis has frequently spoken out about the risk of nuclear war, most emphatically during a 2017 disarmament conference at the Vatican where he signaled a shift in church teaching about nuclear deterrence.

In that speech to Nobel laureates, Nato officials and diplomats, he warned that the Cold War-era strategy of deterrence was no longer viable and urged instead complete nuclear disarmament.

"If we . . . take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of [nuclear weapons'] use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,'' he said.

His comments marked a shift, given previous popes including St John Paul II, had called for the abolition of nuclear weapons but had said the stockpiling of them could be morally acceptable as a form of deterrence.

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